Has American political support for same-sex marriage leveled off in recent months? A recent Pew Research Center poll says: “Yes.” After years of continual and dramatic growth for the support of same-sex marriage this growth may have slowed, if not stopped. The poll’s authors caution that it is too soon to make definitive conclusions about this new data. To give but one example of the data, since February this new poll reveals that support for (legal) same-sex marriage has declined from an approval of 54% to 49%. The percentage of those opposed during the same period went from 39% to 41%.
The same survey showed that religious influence in America was also declining. Yet most who were surveyed saw this decline as a negative. Interestingly, about half of the respondents said churches and houses of worship should speak out more openly on public issues. And nearly half of all respondents said businesses should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples if the owners have religious objections.
I think the most amazing number from this new Pew Research was connected to the percentage of Americans who considered same-sex relationships to be sinful. The number was previously 45% but in this new poll it has reached 50%. I’d love to know what “sinful” means to those who answered in this way.
The culture-wide effort to redefine marriage has plainly become a broad-based mass movement over the last decade. Only a decade ago 30% accepted same-sex marriage. Today 19 states legally approve of such marriage. In the Pew poll the percentage of people who said they were undecided about gay marriage increased from 7% to 10%.
For those who oppose same-sex marriage these numbers could be seen as a new reversal in a growing trend. But the chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute noted that it is very challenging to interpret this kind of data. He added that “the fundamentals beneath the trend remain very solid in the generational breaks that are driving this. The long-term curve on this trend doesn’t show any retreat.” My sense of the debate says this is a sound observation.
I am not a scientific researcher thus I have no idea how to rightly read this data. What I do know is that those among us who are under 40 support same-sex marriage in very high numbers. And most people who are post-65, like me, oppose this social and legal trend. But we are aging and passing away. The trend to embrace same-sex marriage (at least legally) seems likely to grow all the more regardless of this new data. The only trend that might result in a reversal of any consequence might come from a wide-scale moral awakening within the culture. No one can predict such an awakening.