Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CNN Says 51% Support Gay Marriage - But Is That Number Actually Higher?

For the first time, a CNN poll shows that a majority of Americans support equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples: 51% say "marriages between gay and lesbian couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages," while 47% disagree.

Two years ago, those numbers were virtually reversed, as 44% supported marriage equality and 54% opposed.

The demographic breakdown is interesting, if not unexpected: 57% of women support, while only 45% of men do.; both white (52%) and non-white (51%) people support; 59% of people who attended college support, while only 42% of people who did not attend college do; 64% of Democrats, 55% of Independents, and only 27% of Republicans support.

But here's where it gets particularly interesting: the poll shows that 60% of people aged 35-49 support gay marriage, while only 40% of people over 50 support it.  But under the 18-34 age bracket, it simply says N/A.

Most likely, this means that there were not enough respondents aged 18-34 to segregate them for the purposes of the demographic breakdown - meaning there were fewer of them than respondents of other age groups.  This wouldn't matter if people 18-34 had similar opinions on the issue, but that's not the case: younger people have been proven to be more liberal than their older counterparts, and this is certainly true when it comes to gay marirage.

Add in the fact that the poll utilized telephone polling (which, as I've written before, can lead to sampling that underrepresents young voters due to disproportionate cellphone usage in that age group), and it's very possible that the 18-34 age group - the age group most supportive of marriage equality- is severely underrepresented in this poll.

If CNN's gay marriage poll underrepresented the younger generation - our generation - then support for gay marriage is actually higher than this poll shows.  CNN's poll - which shows narrow majority support for gay marriage - is actually skewed towards the older, more conservative generation by excluding a representative amount of younger people.

Support for marriage equality, then, is in all likelihood higher than 51%.

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