The most striking thing about President Obama's
flip-flop evolution reversal on gay marriage was how weakly the likely Republican standard bearer, Mitt Romney, has gone after him for it.
Shortly after the Obama's change of heart went public Romney addresed it at press conference in Oklahoma. Watch here as he gives a mostly tempered response when asked about his views on gay marriage.
Not only did Romney answer that question with no passion but he repeatedly called his position on the issue "his preference". At first glance it seems hard to understand why his campaign would not capitalize on this potential gift, particularly after a rocky primary showed he has problems with Christian evangelicals. Obama's support for gay marriage is just the type of thing Romney needs to energize an unmotivated evangelical base to man phones, knock on doors, and go to the polls.
Then this memo from a top GOP pollster dropped.
Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year. Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year. The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (for instance: NBC / WSJ poll in February / March: support 49%, oppose 40%).
The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time. The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that Hall age groups are rethinking their position.
Polling conducted among Republicans show that majorities of Republicans and Republican leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians. These include majority Republican support for:
Protecting gays and lesbians against being fired for reasons of sexual orientation
Protections against bullying and harassment
Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Right to visit partners in hospitals
Protecting partners against loss of home in case of severe medical emergencies or death
Legal protection in some form for gay couples whether it be same sex marriage or domestic partnership (only 29% of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form).
This new data from one of their own should give Republicans, including Romney, pause when it comes to how they address gay marriage. Romney has already only passively addressed gay marriage but now that the president has changed his tune it will be interesting to see if he continues to tread softly on the issue or go full Culture Warrior like he did as governor during the constitutional amendment fight over it in 2006.
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