Public support for same-sex marriage has been pushed along by politicians announcing their support, according to an expert. University of Illinois political science professor Jason Pierceson has examined the issue here and abroad and written five books about it. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) now supports same-sex marriage, and Pierceson says political leaders do change public opinion.
“I think President Obama’s decision last year to come out in favor of same-sex marriage was quite significant on a lot of different levels and helped to accelerate the push in public opinion support of same-sex marriage. Political leaders can, in certain contexts, change public opinion themselves,” he said.
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Public opinion in favor of same-sex marriage has grown steadily since public attitudes were first regularly surveyed on the issue in 1998. The rate of increase has not actually accelerated, but it appears that those in favor are now consistently over 50 percent in public opinion surveys.
Pierceson says some of the change in public opinion is due to the passage of time: Older people tend to be the most against, and as they die, they are replaced in the electorate by younger voters who are strongly in favor.
Pierceson says of those opposed that some have sincerely held religious beliefs, while others are uncomfortable with gays and lesbians themselves, or with nontraditional gender roles.