Friday, August 04, 2006

Pew Peers at SSM Issues

Okay, that Pew Research Center report on American attitudes on hot political issues is available. While the press has started stressing abortion-related attitudes, those toward same-sex marriage reveal much.

The initial take on the whole survey is here. The Pew executive summary in HTML is here. The 30-page PDF file is here.

The polarization on SSM is stronger than the Reuters quick hit on the report indicates. Specifically, Republicans don't want it. That's true for 83% of conservative Republicans, and 66% of moderate and liberal ones.

Democrats are less doctrinaire about it. Liberal ones are in favor of SSM by 66%, while the moderates and conservatives oppose it by 59%. Independents split for a non-statistically significant 46% for SSM and 45% opposed.

Religion and age are predictable too. In opposition are Black Protestants (74%), White evangelicals (78%) and Roman Catholics (53%). Mainline White Protestants were 47% opposed and 42% for SSM.

The age may be the most important figure though. As we have seen in many surveys by Pew and others, the older you are, the more SSM freaks you. The Korean War Era folk are 73% opposed to 16% for at one extreme, while the 18 to 29-year-olds are 56% to 35%. In survey after survey, the youngest adults invariably ask "What's the big deal?"

It remains likely that American will continue to lag the rest of the First World in adopting SSM. There are many reasons we are seen as politically and socially slow. We get there though.

Burying the Boomers

It appears still that our arrival time will not be as some predicted when the WWII and Korean War folk are buried. Rather when the Baby Boomers are out of power, the younger people have other concerns and seem to care little about how others hook up, so to speak.

We have to remember that most Boomers did not march against the Vietnam War or take LSD. They remain startling like their idealizing parents politically. Their middle-of-the-road views are to be expected.

The Pew report included a time trend of SSM approval. Over the past decade, the trend is slowly to less opposed, but still a majority opposed.

However, where anti-SSM forces seem to have blown it appears again here. As the report reveals, a slight majority of Americans want Daddy -- Congress and the President -- to make these issues go away. They want a federal solution instead of states' deciding for themselves.

One can argue that they did not pay attention in their one civics class or read the Constitution. Nor do they seem aware of what a hot button this is to U.S. Senators and Reps, and governors, particularly in less populous states. There is far too much related baggage for that to happen on all these issues.

So where the right-wing anti-gay groups have miscalculated seems to be on a constitutional ban on SSM. When asked whether such a ban was a good idea, bad idea or they favor SSM, even the anti-SSM folk didn't like goofing on the Constitution. The highest percentage in favor of 46% in the Good idea column among White evangelicals and the conservatives. The total average was 30% Good idea, 24% Bad idea, 35% Favor gay marriage.

So, maybe some were paying attention to part of civics classes, or perhaps they just don't want to start turning the U.S. Constitution from a liberty document to a restriction one.


It is also not surprising that even pro-SSM forces are divided. As we just saw on that Beyond Marriage drive this week, there are ways, ways and ways to look at SSM.

Pew asked pro-SSM folk whether to push hard to legalize it (51%) or don't (41%). "A substantial minority...opposing pushing too hard on the issue, for fear that it might risk creating bad feelings against homosexuals."

The usual suspects -- Midwesterners, rural residents and older supporters are most against pushing hard.

We find that particularly noteworthy. It does ring of the old arguments decades ago against coming out of the closet. Revealing your sexuality has probably been the single biggest factor in furthering gay rights and fostering acceptance. However, that was never easy and still is not. The wisdom of hanging back in SSM drive has yet to be shown.

Nature v. Nurture

Pew continues to ask about attitudes toward the nature of homosexuality. This certainly affects voters and legislators alike. When the anti-gay/anti-SSM folk can convince others that there is a homosexual lifestyle instead of an innate nature, they effectively divorce all gay rights from civil-rights issues.

In contrast, when people accept that homosexuality is inborn, discrimination is plain -- and calls for remedies. The nasties have to find some other group to hate and punish legislatively.

Pew shows the trends in 1985, 2003 and 2006. The choices were Something people are born with, Linked to upbringing, and Just how some prefer to live. There has been a slight, but measurable drop in lifestyle folk from 42% in the two earlier surveys to 38% in the new one. The big differences have been in nurture, from 22% to 14% to 13%, and in nature, from 20% to 30% to 36%.

The opinions vary by predictable groups. Basically, the more self-identified conservative and Protestant churchy they are, the more they favored lifestyle. Also, the more educated they are, the more they favored nature.

The evidence is very strong that homosexuality is innate. Even the chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court that just supported DOMA there agrees. Americans are slowly becoming aware of and accepting this, it appears.

The Pew wrap-up on the topic includes:
Views of the nature of homosexuality are closely related to views of gay marriage and civil unions, with those who view homosexuality as innate and unchangeable expressing more support for these policies compared with those who see homosexuality as changeable. Among those who view homosexuality as innate, for instance, a large majority (58%) supports allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. But among those who see homosexuality as a product of one’s upbringing or as a lifestyle choice, overwhelming majorities (82% and 71%, respectively) oppose gay marriage.
And there it is, kiddies. Americans are slowly, slowly crawling toward acceptance and equality. Many of us meanwhile are impatient. We do not live in the social vanguard of the world.

Let us pause to recall some thrilling lyrics of yesteryear. From the Pretenders' Middle of the Road:
I can't get from the cab to the curb
Without some little jerk on my back

Don't harass me, can't you tell
I'm going home, i'm tired as hell
I'm not the cat i used to be

I got a kid, i'm thirty-three

Baby, get in the road
Come on now
In the middle of the road


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