Social Policy & Politics Program | Report

The Big Shift: Changing Views on Marriage for Gay Couples

by Gregory B. Lewis and Lanae Erickson Hatalsky

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Support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry has risen dramatically in the past decade. One often-cited reason for the change is that younger voters with more accepting views are replacing older voters in the population. The more important reason, though, is that Americans in every political, religious, and age group across the country are changing their minds on this issue. Although marriage advocates have not yet been able to turn that edge into victory at the ballot box, the numbers indicate that this year could be different.

Using data from 98 national surveys conducted between 2004 and 2011 with more than 128,000 responses, we dug underneath the topline numbers to gain insights about how different groups are evolving on this issue. Specifically, we find that:

  1. Support for marriage has risen 16 points since 2004, with major shifts across every demographic group.
  2. 75% of the growth has come from people changing their minds.
  3. In at least 13 states, marriage support has surpassed the majority mark, including in two that will see votes this November.

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