Obama’s reach on marriage equality


After President Obama endorsed marriage equality on two weeks, there was quite a bit of analysis that said the president’s position had symbolic value, but little more. After all, LGBT Americans had no more rights the day after the president’s statement than the day before.

But the analysis was incomplete to the extent that it overlooked a key power: the ability of a president to move public opinion, especially among supporters.

The NAACP’s announcement over the weekend was a direct result of Obama’s remarks, and it’s likely shifting attitudes in Maryland were heavily influenced by the president as well.

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Maryland finds a significant increase in support for same-sex marriage among African American voters following President Obama’s historic announcement two weeks ago. The referendum to keep the state’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage now appears likely to pass by a healthy margin. […]

The movement over the last two months can be explained almost entirely by a major shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters. Previously 56% said they would vote against the new law with only 39% planning to uphold it. Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55% of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36% now opposed.

What’s more, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found 59% of African Americans expressing support for same-sex marriage, which is “up from an average of 41 percent in polls leading up to Obama’s announcement of his new position on the matter.”

As PPP’s Tom Jensen explained, “While the media has been focused on what impact President Obama’s announcement will have on his own reelection prospects, the more important fallout may be the impact his position is having on public opinion about same-sex marriage itself.”