Two conservative groups are pushing back on moves by the GOP to drop opposition to same-sex marriage from party platforms, releasing a poll of base voters taken last month that found in favor of defining marriage "only" as between a man and a woman. The poll, commissioned by groups led by conservatives Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins, runs counter to a wide variety of opinion polls that show movement on the question of same-sex marriage, with more voters favoring it than opposing it.
Looking back over the last year or so, how many national polls have shown a majority of Americans endorsing marriage equality? Just about all of them. For much of the right, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the arc of the moral universe is bending towards justice, and there's nothing they can do to bend it back.
But the religious right movement is nevertheless filled with dead-enders, who can commission a poll of the slice of the population that might still agree with the conservative culture warriors.
Bauer's and Perkins' groups specifically polled Republican and Republican-leaning independents last month, and wouldn't you know it, they found that 82% of respondents believe marriage should be between "one man and one woman." The same poll found 75% of respondents don't want "politicians" to "redefine" marriage to include same-sex couples."
Touting the results, Bauer issued a statement insisting the debate over equal marriage rights "is far from over," adding that policymakers shouldn't "misread the convictions of the American people."
And that, right there, underscores the circumstances that have pushed conservatives further from the American mainstream.
For the religious right, polling Republican voters exclusively offers us a look at "the American people's" attitudes. The trouble, of course, is that the United States has a diverse population that includes -- it's shocking, I know -- some people who aren't Republicans.
When independent pollsters conduct actual polls to gauge public attitudes, they consistently find a growing majority that supports marriage equality. In this sense, the poll from Bauer's and Perkins' groups doesn't tell us much about what "the American people" think in general; it's one poll that gauges attitudes of Republicans.
It's not that this is unimportant. If you're a GOP candidate looking to win a primary, you're probably deeply interested in the attitudes of Republican voters. But (a) let's not pretend part of the population is the whole population; and (b) policymakers interested in appealing to the American mainstream should probably think twice before taking advice from those who are confused about (a).
For his part, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) touted the poll on Twitter, saying, "Contrary to the Left, poll shows Americans support traditional marriage. Cue liberal outrage."
I'm afraid the only "outrage" here is a member of Congress who doesn't understand that a poll that only surveys Republicans will not tell him what "Americans" overall believe.