USA TODAY has a story that states the obvious. States where organized religion is weak are far more likely to back gay marriage than states where organized religion is strong.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good story and it’s written by a great religion reporter, and it uses new data, but it contains absolutely no surprises — at least for those of us who have been studying exit polls and voter surveys on this topic for the past decade.
In California, as I’ve noted before, roughly two-thirds of Protestants and roughly two-thirds of Catholics voted for Proposition 8, the measure outlawing gay marriage. Voters who claimed no religious affiliation, on the other hand, opposed Proposition 8, 90 percent to 10 percent, exit polls showed.
In addition, support for Proposition 8 among church-going Christians was off the charts. Those attending church weekly or more often voted for traditional marriage, 84 percent to 16 percent.
That’s the California election in a nutshell:
Seculars: 10 to 1 for gay marriage.
Churchgoing Christians: 5 to 1 against gay marriage.
So what does this mean for the future?
If the nation becomes more secular [and that seems unstoppable, barring an act or move of God], gay marriage will expand from New England into other parts of the country.
In addition, Californians 18-29 were lopsidedly in favor of gay marriage. If they continue to support gay marriage as they age — and if their children and grandchildren share their views on gay marriage — then time and mortality tables will eventually settle this debate.
Also, the exit polls showed a correlation between educational attainment and support for gay marriage. If the number of college graduates rises [despite the recession] that also suggests support for gay marriage will expand.
I’m not saying which side should win or lose the debate over gay marriage. But gay marriage advocates have to be heartened by several of the findings in these exit polls and religious surveys.