Saturday, June 1, 2013

Most States (Still) Oppose Same-Sex Marriage, But Public Opinion Near Tipping-point

With the recent failure of same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois, I thought I would examine the level of support for same-sex marriage in each individual state. Many have attempted to do this, but they have provided estimates that I consider implausible (with the exception of Nate Silver). Thus, I have developed my own model to estimate support for same-sex marriage in each state.

Although national support for same-sex marriage has crossed the 50% threshold, majorities in most states still do not support same-sex marriage. Support is concentrated in a dozen or so states in the Northeast and West Coast, where adults solidly support same-sex marriage. In 33 states--including Illinois--support is below 50%.

In almost all states outside of the South, however, public opinion on same-sex marriage is near a tipping-point. In most of the Midwest, support ranges between 45 and 50%. In every state outside of the South, support exceeds 40%. Given young adults overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage, majority opposition to same-sex marriage will be relegated to the Deep South within the next five to ten years.

These facts should serve as a source of both optimism and caution among gay rights advocates. Much progress has been made for marriage equality and, in the near future, most of the country will support same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, same-sex marriage is still a little short of majority support in the Midwest. In midwestern states like Illinois, public opinion is near a tipping-point and majority support will emerge within the next few years. Still, advocates should be careful not to push equality legislation prematurely since they are still shy of majority support in most states.

Methodology: I will just sketch my methodology. I collected polling data on support for same-sex marriage across age and religious identification groups. I then estimated support for same-sex within each age-religion cell. Next, I calibrated these estimates to match polling data within each region (Midwest, Northeast, South, and West). Taking these estimates of support within each region-age-religion category, I calculated support in each state based on the state's region, religious composition, and age profile.

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