Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gay marriage

How the Republican Party lost the youth of America

It's surprising to me how quickly the public dialogue over gay marriage has shifted since the Iowa supreme court decision a little over a month ago. What wasn't surprising to me was Nate Silver coming up with a regression for gay marriage amendment votes, and that regression showed a 2% per year decrease in voters willing to vote for a gay marriage ban.

Polls have shown a marked generation gap in the support for gay marriage. Slowly but steadily, older voters against gay marriage have died off, while younger citizens in support of gay marriage have been reaching voting age. It's not the sort of issue people have been changing their minds about very quickly.

In 2004, a slight majority of the voting age public was against gay marriage. The Republican party made a large issue out of gay marriage in many states, tying state and national campaigning to efforts that put eleven measures against gay marriage on state ballots. Eight of these measures banned civil unions. This drove Republican base turnout up and helped Bush defeat Kerry.

In the long run, however, this was a poor strategic move, one of several decisions that would drive the younger voters of America away from the Republican party in droves in 2006 and 2008. From CNN's exit polls: The age gap seen in the support for Obama and McCain? 66-32 among 18-29 year olds... right in the range of exit polling on Proposition 8 in California the same year. Coincidence? I think not.

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