Going back to the 80’s there was virtually nothing to be
heard of in America about support for gay marriage or gay marriage period. Now,
just a quarter century later gay marriage is now in a clear majority within the
This has been a very dramatic opinion shift and is one of
the fastest deviations in opinion within the history of this country. In a
widely respected and comprehensive survey from the General Social Survey which
measures American trends on a large variety of attitudes within American
culture for over four decades.
Widespread support for same sex couples to be able to marry
has jumped 45 points since the question was first raised in 1988. A time when
there was only 11% of Americans that supported the idea of same sex marriage.
Just in the last two years it’s risen another 8%. There is only 1/3rd
of Americans that don’t support the idea of same sex marriage today.
Since 2012, the largest supporting shift has been from
Republicans. An overwhelming majority (45%) considering the party who now
support same sex couple marriage rights is staggering. Since 2012 it’s jumped
14% to that 45% figure of today.
There are a large number of things that simple don’t have
much of a shift. The majority of things will either change extremely slow or
not change at all. According to the General Social Survey this is one of the
most impressive changes they’ve every measured.
The survey data for 2014 was just recently released. It was
an analysis on their gay marriage findings and was conducted through the
General Social Survey along with the Associated Press NORC Center for Public
As the support of rights to marriage for same sex couples
has continued to rise, so has the acceptance for the overall relationships for
same sex couples in general. Even though 4 out of every 10 Americans still
believe that sexual relationships between those of the same gender are always
wrong that amount has gone down by half since 1987. The dynamic shift is
somewhat staggering when you consider that in 1976 only 53% of Americans even
believed that a gay person should even be allowed to teach at a
college/university and that has shifted to 88% saying there is no issue with
The 2014 surveys release is something that comes as the
courts on the federal level have increased (and rapidly so) the amount of
states that now have full marriage equality. There are 36 states that are now
issuing same sex marriage licenses. Before July it’s expected that the Supreme
Court will issue their ruling on whether or not states will be able to legally
exclude gay couples from being able to marry or if marriage equality will be
spread nationwide if those bans are deemed to violate the United States
Americans to the tune of 56% now agree that gay and lesbian
couples should now be granted the right to marriage equality which is a jump
from the 2012 survey of 48%.
Even though the largest growth factor is from Republicans
it’s still important to note that both Democrats along with Independents are
the most likely segment to support full marriage equality for gays and
lesbians. Democrats are much more likely to support marriage equality shifting
to 65% up from the 59% in 2012. Support among Independents stayed steady at 54%
supporting full marriage equality.
In all three groups, when the question was first asked in
the 1988 study, marriage equality is something that hovered within the 1%-10%.
Also found in the survey was an increase of more than double
digits over the last two years in 50-64 year olds. More than half of them now
favor full marriage equality. Among the 18-34 year old segment, more than 70%
support full marriage equality.
At least 50% or more of Americans within all age groups,
with the sole exception of the 65+ group, now favor full marriage equality.
About the General
Prior to 1994 their general sample sizing was 1,500. That
grew to between 2,700 and 3,000 until 2008. For the most recent surveys there
were 2,000 interviews conducted. When you look at the margin of error being +/-
3.1% with the smaller of the sample sizes and +/- 2.2% for the larger samples
you get a 95% degree of confidence. March 31st to October 11th
were the dates for the 2014 survey. The survey was conducted with 2,538
American adults. The General Social Survey’s cumulative file was utilized for
the years 1972 through 2014 in order to produce the presented statistics.
The NORC at the University of Chicago administers the
General Social Survey. They use primarily in person interviews for all their
surveys. The General Social Survey begin in 1972 and recently completed their
30th round in 2014.
The NORC is an independent research organization and gets
their funding from the National Science Foundation. They’re very highly regarded
as a data source about trends in social attitudes due to their long running
status and the comprehensive sets of questions they ask about the American public’s
demographics and attitudes.