Saturday, January 10, 2009

Culturally Moderate Majority Part 2a: More From that Newsweek Poll On Gay Rights

The Newsweek poll also tests a whole slew of gay rights, including some that already exist and some that would be part of civil unions. Let's delve into them some.

First, some good news: we seem to acknowledge that gays are people, too. We want them not to suffer discrimination in housing and employment by 82%-13% and 87%-10%, respectively. As understanding as I try to be of cultural conservatives, anyone under 60 who is part of those 13% or 10% is just plain evil. We are also in favor of gays serving openly in the military by 66%-29%. Here I can be more understanding. I imagine some people worrying about unit cohesion (whether those concerns are valid or not) more than discrimination. Also, gays are just too precious:

Four different domestic partner benefits earn widespread support. 86% are for hospital visitation rights, 74% for inheritance, 73% for employee benefits like health insurance, and 67% for Social Security benefits for gay partners (although that might be less should it be proposed in this economy). All of these score higher than civil unions as a package, whether you use the 55% number in the "civil unions, yes or no?" question or the 63% sum of those who prefer marriage and those who prefer unions. So what's the deal here? Why do more people support every element of civil unions than actually support unions themselves?

As it turns out, that's not the case. There is one right that we are still very anxious about: adoption. We only favor adoption by 53%-39%, a little lower than our support for unions at 55%-36%. The closeness of these numbers (they even correlate closely within each age group), and the large gap compared with the other rights, suggest that adoption rights might actually drive our opinions on civil unions. Supposing that we viewed each of the 5 rights tested as of equal importance, we should expect our support for civil unions to be an average of the 5. Instead, it seems that adoption is a deal-breaker for those who oppose it, which is reasonable if you believe that gays are inferior parents to straight people.

The lessons here are clear. First, domestic partner benefits are not extreme. We should not assume that the Phoenix city council and now Dennis Kavanaugh find themselves holding minority positions among their constituents. And many suburban (especially) politicians could use domestic partner registries to make themselves look ahead of the curve without actually standing in the face of public opinion. Second, the gay rights movement will never achieve success as long as most Americans are against gay adoption.

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