While searching for old polling data on the topic of marriage equality, I found Gallup's marriage page, and right below the data for same-sex marriage are the numbers for the question Do you approve or disapprove of marriage between blacks and whites?
Well, there's an obvious comparison to look at here, isn't there? (And being obvious, I'm not the first to think of it, either.)
Here's what that comparison looks like:
Please read below the fold for more on this story.
Another obvious point is that while the Supreme Court was way out in front of public opinion with Loving v. Virginia in 1967, decided when the public's net support of interracial marriage was about -60, the Supreme Court is really dragging its feet on same-sex marriage, which is currently at a net support level of +19 and rising.
But that's not what really grabbed my attention.
No, what really shocked me was that as late as 1983, 50 percent of respondents said they disapproved of marriage between blacks and whites. And even in 1994 - 1994 fer crissakes! - only 48 percent said they approved.
I would have thought that this was a long-settled question. Fortunately, however, I looked at the data before opening my mouth on the subject in public and making an ass of myself (and that's the most charitable interpretation). If asked, I would have guessed net support for interracial marriage shot up to +60 by the mid-'80s and stayed there ever since. Talk about being wrong.
It turns out that incorrectly estimating public opinion is fairly common, however. In the recent PRRI poll focusing on same-sex marriage, only 34 percent of respondents correctly understand that Americans overall are mostly in favor of same-sex marriage. Among those who oppose same-sex marriage, only 21 percent understand this fact. And when asked whether federal law allows discrimination against LGBT individuals in the workplace, only 15 percent correctly say that it does.
Interestingly, there is also a very strong link between what we think our friends think and what our opinion of same-sex marriage is. Eighty-seven percent of those who think most of their friends support same-sex marriage support it themselves. Even among Republicans, 78 percent of those who say most of their friends support same-sex marriage are in favor themselves. Whether we're more likely to think our friends support what we support, or whether we're more likely to support what we think our friends support, there's a clear social component to public opinion visible in this poll.
The question is, what do Justice Kennedy's friends think?