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A Pro–gay Marriage Majority In California?

The new Field Poll is out, and it has much better news for proponents of gay marriage than last week's Los Angeles Times poll. In the Field survey, California voters support same-sex marriage by a margin of 51 to 42 percent, and oppose the ballot initiative to ban it by a nearly identical 51–43 percent margin. A bit surprisingly, a 49-percent plurality of Latino voters (generally thought to be socially conservative) support gay marriage. Less surprisingly, a whopping 68 percent of voters age 18-to-29 support it; the 65-and-older cohort is the only one opposed. California may be a socially liberal state, but any movement that has this degree of support among young voters anywhere has cause for optimism.

Semi-relatedly, Dana Goldstein points out that young evangelical Christians oppose abortion rights even more strongly than older evangelicals. Abortion polling is notoriously unreliable, and subject to huge swings based on small changes in wording, but this is in keeping with the general trend of support for abortion rights holding steady or declining somewhat among younger voters. It's too early to say for certain, but gay marriage looks more and more like one of those social issues--like racial and gender equality, contraception, eugenics, Prohibition, and, more recently, perhaps gun control--that within a few decades gets answered definitively one way or the other and fades from the political scene thereafter. Abortion, on the other hand, seems to be that rare social issue in American politics on which a generation of intense public debate has brought us no closer to arriving at anything resembling a consensus. That fact alone ought to chasten the more uncompromising activists on both sides.

--Josh Patashnik