Opinions on Gay Rights: Ideological or Generational?

The debate over same-sex marriage tends to get defined in ideological terms based on religious conviction or conservative political leaning, but a new paper by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia shows that age may, in fact, be a more salient distinction when it comes to differences of opinion on gay rights. (See PDF of paper here)

While figuring out there is a difference between the opinions of older and younger people isn’t rocket science, many of us don’t realize just how vast the difference is.  The graphic below illustrates the views on same-sex marriage of people 65 and over (blue diamonds) and people 18-29 (red squares):

Ryan Sager of True/Slant rightly points out that this chart tells us that

If people over 65 in each state made the laws, 0 states would have gay marriage; if people under 30 made the laws, 38 states would have gay marriage.

Astounding. Even in a state like Massachusetts where young support of gay marriage is very high, support among those over 65 is still only at a tepid 35%.  Thankfully, trends show that today’s young people are not likely to change their pro-gay rights stance as they reach their twilight years.  The reason for this is that young people mostly grow up knowing someone who is gay where as old people claim they did not, and this simple fact makes our generation more amenable to changing the marriage status-quo.  (Note this phenomenon that people who are familiar with something are more accepting of it is true for many issues, e.g., areas with low immigrant populations tend to be much more concerned with illegal immigration than areas which have a high percentage of immigrants.)

You know what else this chart shows us?  New York is one of the states where current policy is incongruous with public opinion. Well, not if MYD has anything to say about it!! Check out http://www.newyorkequality.com for info about how to tell Albany that you are sick and tired of their inaction it’s about time they did the real people’s business.

Hat Tip: Marty

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