Friday, December 7, 2018

Gay Rights, Millennials and Changing Public Opinion – Korbel School Class Blogs on Policy and Public Opinion

In my class on American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, students produced blogs on public policy topics. Communicating online is an essential skill for today’s public policy professions. Student Brittney Lewis submitted the following blog, titled “Gay Rights, Millennials and Changing Public Opinion,” which I believe is an excellent example of policy and opinion analysis.

Gay Rights, Millennials and Changing Public Opinion
By Brittney Lewis

Views on same-sex marriage have changed drastically over the last few years. In 2004, gay marriage was legal in only one state: Massachusetts. By 2015, marriage equality was the law of the land. Today, it has the support of over two-thirds of Americans, with 83 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents and 44 percent of Republicans supporting.1 Only eight years earlier, a majority opposed it 48 percent to 42 percent.

This vast increase in support is attributed to several key factors. The first explanation is a generational change. Polls show 74 percent of millennials back gay marriage, including 60 percent of Republican millennials. 2 Second, more individuals are identifying as LGBT accounting for 4.5 percent of the current population, up from 3.5 percent in 2012, meaning more Americans personally know someone who is LGBT. This socialization, in addition to exposure through media, Hollywood representation, and elite discussion has nudged the public toward greater support. 3 Education is another contributing factor to the growing acceptance of gay rights. When people are well educated, they tend to be more tolerant of different lifestyles. Here too, millennials are a driving force in the acceptance; they are the largest voting bloc, the most well educated, and they are changing public opinion. Finally, in 2012, Obama formally announced his support for gay marriage. Having a sitting president’s endorsement was, of course, a monumental event, and it cemented one of the nation’s major political party’s approval of gay rights.

Acceptance of the LGBT community manifested itself in the 2018 midterms, which many pundits called “a rainbow wave.” A record 399 LGBTQ candidates ran for office this year, and 164 candidates won, providing history-making government representation for the community.4 Colorado elected the nation’s first gay governor and Kansas elected Sharice Davids, the state’s first lesbian congresswoman. Equality is winning and Americans are proud of it.

1Gallup, Inc. "Two in Three Americans Support Same-Sex Marriage." May 23, 2018. Accessed November 15, 2018.
2Fingerhut, Hannah. "Support for Same-Sex Marriage Grows, Even Among Groups That Had Been Skeptical." Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. September 24, 2018. Accessed November 15, 2018. ; Erikson, Robert S., and Kent L. Tedin. American Public Opinion. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016. p.106
3Ayoub, Phillip M. "How the Media Has Helped Change Public Views about Lesbian and Gay People." Scholars Strategy Network. Accessed November 16, 2018.
4McDermott, Matt. "There Was A Rainbow Wave In The Midterms, And It Will Change Our Politics." BuzzFeed News. November 15, 2018. Accessed November 16, 2018.

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