John M. Becker

Opposing Marriage Equality Could Cost GOP Candidates

Filed By John M. Becker | February 20, 2015 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: gay marriage, GOP, GOP 2016, marriage equality, Republican Party, same-sex marriage

rainbow-flag-supreme-court.jpgIn what the Washington Post is calling "the most surprising gay marriage poll we've seen in awhile," NBC News and Marist College have found that many GOP primary voters in three key early states say opposition to marriage equality is a deal-breaker for a 2016 presidential candidate.

As you might expect, Common Core, immigration reform, belief in man-made climate change and support for raising taxes on the wealthy are among those with the potential to alienate lots of conservatives.

But according to the polls, so does opposition to gay marriage -- an issue on which Bush agrees with basically every other candidate.

The polls, in fact, show that about half of likely GOP caucus and primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina said they find opposition to gay marriage either "mostly" or "totally" unacceptable in a candidate. Fifty-two percent of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina said opposing gay marriage is either mostly or totally unacceptable, while 47 percent of likely Iowa caucus voters agree.

By comparison, 63 percent of Iowa voters say belief in man-made climate change (and fighting it) is unacceptable, 56 percent of New Hampshire voters say raising taxes on the wealthy is a non-starter, and 52 percent of South Carolina voters say support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship is a deal-breaker on one level or another.

The Post points out that it's possible that respondents were confused by the question -- "Asking people about gay marriage opposition rather than support for it brings double-negatives into the picture... and people are more apt to respond in the negative when in doubt."

But even if some respondents were confused, it's clear that the Republican Party is feeling the same massive shift in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples that's taking place in society at large. A 2013 survey of young voters conducted by the College Republican National Committee found that of the respondents who said same-sex marriage should be legal, about half view the issue as a deal-breaker, meaning that they would vote against a candidate who opposed marriage equality even if they agreed with them on issues like taxes, spending, immigration, and defense.

In 2014, Pew found that 61% of GOP-leaning voters under the age of 29 support the freedom to marry -- and among Republicans overall, support had increased to 39%.

They may be lagging behind the rest of the country, but make no mistake: Republican voters are slowly but surely embracing the freedom to marry. The longer GOP candidates ignore this reality, the more long-term harm they'll inflict on their brand.

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