Recent polls released by Gallup, CNN, the Public Religion Research Institute, the Washington Post and ABC News all say a majority of Americans now support full marriage equality—a dramatic increase over the last year. But that’s not any reason to bust out the champagne and white tuxes. Not at all.
For one, just because people responded favorably on a poll, doesn’t mean they’ll come out in droves to vote for marriage equality on election day or pressure their legislators into voting for a marriage equality bill either (it’s called The Bradley Effect). Plus, the 18 to 30-year-olds often listed as supporting marriage equality the most also tend to vote the least, especially compared to their less liberal elders. Lastly, rural areas continue to be largely conservative and able to tip the polls against marriage equality ballot measures even though bigger cities may vote in favor of them.
Luckily, legislative majorities in states like California, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have passed marriage equality bills and even over-ridden governor’s vetoes in the past. Iowa also approved same-sex marriage through the state supreme court. It’s obvious that the legislature and courts remain our best way to make marriage equality a reality.
Nonethless, Bob Witeck CEO of his own queer-friendly consulting firm says “[Even though] the conventional polling wisdom is that this opinion data is directional but not valid in recognizing how voters will act when a specific question arises, the attitude measures are meaningful to many influentials [such as] helping raise money, enlist allies and endorsements in a campaign… These confirmatory polls matter too because there are so many revealing the “trend.” The march towards marriage and relationship approval is inexorably in only ONE direction and it is painstaking and real, and unstoppable—that helps sway minds and fence-sitters absolutely.”
Thus, marriage equality groups should still parlay these poll results into advertisements that use a bandwagon approach (ie. “A majority of American support marriage equality, but we still need your help!”). No one wants to part of an uncool, un-hip dinosaur herd.