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Young people overwhelmingly support SSM? Not necessarily

Author: Tom O'Gorman
Date: 15th May 2012

We're frequently told that the introduction of same-sex marriage is inevitable because young people overwhelmingly support it.

As older, more traditional voters die, so the reasoning goes, younger voters will take over. As they tend to be far more supportive of same-sex marriage, and will either vote in politicians to pass such laws or vote for same-sex marriage in referrenda.

However, according to this blog by Daniel and Lazar Berman at the American Enterprise Institute there might be a wrinkle in this apparently straightforward thesis.

It cites exit poll data from the recent North Carolina vote on same-sex marriage.

Polls in advance of the referendum showed that those aged 18-29 were against inserting the traditional definition of marriage into North Carolina's state constitution by 51pc to 36pc, a 15pc gap.

But in the vote itself, voters in this age bracket only opposed the measure by two percent, 51pc to 49pc.

As the authors put it: “If 18- to 30-year-old voters did in fact split almost evenly on Amendment One, this casts some doubt on the theory that gay marriage will ride to acceptance due to overwhelmingly supportive young voters.

“While young voters do seem more supportive of gay marriage, and support increases the younger the demographic in question, the operative word is supportive. Only moderately in favor of gay marriage themselves, young North Carolinians were in no position to outvote their older neighbors.

“In fact, even if nobody over age 45 had voted......., the amendment still would have passed by around 8 percentage points, according to the adjusted data above.

“Therefore, any strategy of waiting for demographics to realise the maximalist position of gay marriage advocates across the country looks to be, at the very least, a lengthy endeavor.

“States on the margins, like California and Washington, where initial bans commanded marginal majorities, might support gay marriage in the near future. But on a wider scale, movement on the issue, though real, is likely to be far too slow to bring about dramatic change nationally anytime soon.”

Of course, it will be pointed out that North Carolina is a relatively conservative state even though it voted for Obama in 2008. In more liberal states support among young people for same-sex marriage would be bigger. That is true.

However, what the result of the referendum shows, yet again, is that once people – including young people – begin to hear the arguments in favour of man/woman marriage for the first time they start to flock in the direction of those arguments.

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