The Democratic Party is set to add the legalization of same-sex marriage as one of its platform planks during its national convention in September, and it seems the party might be evolving more generally — new data from Pew shows that two-thirds of Democrats now embrace gay marriage.
At the time of their last convention in 2008, only 50 percent of Democrats favored the policy, while a still substantial 42 percent opposed it, according to a Pew survey from the time. That has changed as states have legalized same sex marriage and President Obama has endorsed it — now 65 percent of Democrats support the idea, while 29 percent remain against.
That’s powered an overall increase in support: in 2008, 39 percent of Americans were for allowing same sex couples to marry, while 51 percent were against. Now 48 percent of Americans support it, while 44 are opposed, similar to a result Pew also found in a separate April poll on the subject.
Pew noted that the total impact of the Obama endorsement was limited throughout the population. Yet he may have changed the internal politics of his party:
But Obama’s announcement may have rallied the Democratic base - particularly liberal Democrats, to the issue. Democrats supported gay marriage by a 59% to 31% margin in April - that stands at 65% to 29% today. Most of this shift has come among liberal Democrats, 83% of whom now support gay marriage, up from 73% earlier this year.
Attitudes have not shifted among any other segment of the public following Obama’s announcement, including younger Americans, who continue to back gay marriage at the same rate as before, and African Americans, who remain, on balance, opposed to gay marriage.
As Democrats have moved wholly toward legalization, independent voters now support it in Pew’s numbers. Forty-four percent of indies said they supported gay marriage in 2008, while 45 percent were opposed, but attitudes have shifted: a small 51 percent majority now supports it, while 40 still oppose.
And while Americans have become more supportive of same sex marriage over the years, Pew also found that views of homosexuality in general haven’t changed much as citizens have warmed to the idea of allowing gays to marry.
Views of homosexuality have changed relatively slowly, if at all, in recent years. About half (51%) of Americans believe a person’s sexual orientation is something that cannot be changed, while 36% believe it can. That is little different from six years ago, when the balance was 49% vs. 39%. Similarly, the share who say homosexuality is something people are born with is up only five percentage points (from 36% to 41%) since 2006 - a period in which support for gay marriage jumped by 13 percentage points (from 35% to 48%) and support for gay adoption jumped 10 points (from 42% to 52%).
The Pew poll used 2,973 live telephone interviews with American adults conducted June 28th to July 9th. It has a sampling error of 2.1 percent.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.