PoliGraph: Simon marriage claim essentially right

There was emotionally charged debate on the Minnesota Senate floor this week as legislators weighed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and woman.

In the end, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill largely along party lines. But Sen. Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, who opposed the measure, says public opinion on the issue is shifting.

“I predict that over the arch of time, we will have marriage equality,” he said in an interview with Morning Edition’s Cathy Wurzer on May 11, 2011. “I think that when you look at the poll numbers, particularly amongst young people, they’re off the charts.”

“Off the charts” is an overstatement, but national support for same-sex marriage is growing.

The Evidence

A recent ABCNews/Washington Post poll shows 53 percent support same-sex marriages. That’s up from just 32 percent in 2004, representing a “dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes” on the subject, according to the survey report. The Pew Research Center and CNN/Opinion Research Corporation also recently reported increasing support, though a Pew poll showed that opponents and proponents of gay marriage still evenly split.

Minnesota appears to follow the national trend. A Star Tribune poll released May 13, 2011, with a 4.7 percentage point margin of error shows that 55 percent of Minnesotans would oppose an amendment to ban gay marriage; in 2004, the same poll showed that 58 percent supported such an amendment.

On his FiveThirtyEight blog, statistics guru Nate Silver analyzed data on public opinion on same-sex marriage going back to 1988. His conclusion: the gap between supporters and opponents is narrowing. But while opponents are now in the minority, Silver wrote, “it is too soon to say with confidence that support for gay marriage has become the plurality position (let alone the majority one).”

So, support is on the rise, but it’s not “off the charts” as Simon said.

Simon is correct that the majority of younger people tend to support same-sex marriage, and have for a while. For instance, the ABCNews/Washington Post poll showed that 68 percent of those younger than 29 support it. The Star Tribune poll found that 60 percent of those younger than 34 would oppose a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

The Verdict

Simon’s overall point is correct. Support for same sex marriage is growing, especially among younger people.


Minnesota Public Radio News, Morning Edition, May 11, 2011

ABCNews/Washington Post Poll:Gay Marriage, March 18, 2011

The Pew Research Center, Fewer Are Angry at Government, But Discontent Remains High, March 3, 2011

CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Poll: April 19, 2011

PollingReport.com, Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Rights, accessed May 12, 2011

FiveThirtyEight, Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority, April 20, 2011

Pew Research Center, Support for Same Sex Marriage Edges Upward, Oct. 6, 2010

The Star Tribune, Minnesota Poll: Support falls for ban on gay marriage, by Rachel Stassen-Berger, May 13, 2011

The Star Tribune, Minnesota Poll: Majority oppose gay marriage ban, May 13, 2011


The Humphrey School

  • Matt B

    Steve Simon is a Representative from St. Louis Park (44-A), not a Senator.

  • Catharine Richert

    @Matt B: Thanks for catching my error! It’s been fixed.