When the Supreme Court rules, Americans normally respond by increasing support for the decision.
But a new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows gay marriage advocates have not sealed the deal with the American people. The poll received attention under the heading: “Over 60 percent of Republicans oppose court on gay marriage”.
I was struck because the story contained no more information than that. Whether by design or mere inadvertence, it excluded the number of Republicans who favor gay marriage, leaving uniformed readers to suggest almost 40 percent of Republicans do.
So I asked my colleague and sometime co-author Bill Duncan to track down the results.
Fascinating. First the headline you never read: “New poll shows sharp drop in support for gay marriage.” In May, Gallup reported a record 60 percent support for “allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry.” Reuters asked almost the same question in interviews taken mostly (but not completely) after Obergefell (June 26—July 8): “Do you support or oppose allowing same-sex couples to legally marry?” Just 51 percent of Americans said yes, a drop of 9 percentage points. A suspiciously high number of people (14 percent) responded “not sure” with 35 percent opposed. (In referendum battles, most of the people who responded “not sure” ended up being secret opponents of gay marriage.)
Just 37 percent agreed that “same-sex marriage laws should be made by the Supreme Court” (which might be partly an artifact of the fact that respondents were offered three other choices (state legislatures, voter referendum, and Congress).
51 percent said they favored the Court’s decision, mirroring the split over gay marriage itself (and suggesting procedural arguments about Constitutionalism don’t carry greater weight with voters than the issue itself). But just 46 percent said they would oppose a Constitutional Amendment, again suggesting a fundamental ambivalence and discomfort remains even among some titular gay marriage supporters.
Why the change? I believe we are seeing a fundamental dynamic here: when a major Court decision breaks in the middle of an election campaign, the press has to (and given their belief it hurts Republicans, gleefully does) permit dissenting voices to be heard.
The “consensus” on gay marriage is painfully brittle and artificial, a product of the Left’s control of the narrative more than the power of their argument.
GOP candidates take note. But even more importantly, traditional believers should get serious about thinking through new strategies to break through the silencing and to keep at least one political party willing to carry the message.
Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at American Principles in Action.