Same sex-marriage proponents aren’t doing a very good job of changing the hearts and minds of Utahns.
This week our Zions Bank/UtahPolicy.com poll conducted by Dan Jones and Associates found that not only do Utahns overwhelmingly oppose same-sex marriage, but an even bigger number say their attitudes about the issue have not changed over the last 5 years.
69% of Utahns told us that they feel exactly the same way about same-sex marriage as they did in 2009. Nearly 7 out of every 10 Utahns have not changed their minds at all. Sure, some of those are supporters, but most of them have to be those who oppose gay and lesbian unions - especially given the nearly 60% of Utahns who told us they are against same-sex marriage.
That suggests attitudes about same-sex marriage have ossified - nobody is moving in either direction. It’s close to a zero-sum game.
This means a few things for Utah going forward.
First of all, it’s very bad news for Utah’s Democrats. This same poll found that both Republicans and political independents oppose same-sex marriage. That Republicans are against it is not news. That second group, the independents, is the most important one here. As my colleague Bob Bernick pointed out, Utah Democrats can’t win big elections simply by appealing to members of their own party. They need political independents to win.
Right now, when you think of the Democratic Party in Utah, the #1 issue that comes to mind is gay rights. Not education. Not advocating for the middle class. None of the things the party has been traditionally tied to. It’s gay rights and same-sex marriage.
That’s not surprising given that the loudest voice in the party, Sen. Jim Dabakis, has been out front and center on these issues over the past few months. For better or worse, Dabakis is the face of Utah’s Democrats and he solidly anchors the party to this topic.
Simply put, same-sex marriage is not an issue that will win any elections in Utah, but it could lose a heck of a lot of them.
Secondly, there was a lot of media attention given to two seemingly incongruous results from the survey. Utahns say they support the state’s effort to defend Amendment 3, appealing it all the way to the Supreme Court, yet they ultimately think that effort will fail.
What does that mean?
If, as expected, the Supreme Court rules Amendment 3 unconstitutional - there are going to be a whole heckuva lot of angry voters in Utah. Angry that an issue they feel strongly about and oppose has been struck down by the high court.
Those hurts aren’t going to disappear overnight. Same-sex marriage will be legal in Utah, but any thought that the state will come together, hold hands and sing kumbaya is pure folly. There are still parts in the south angry that they lost the civil war. I’m not trying to make an apples-to-apples comparison between the fight over same-sex marriage and an actual war, but Utahns aren’t going to get over this loss in a day or even a year. Given the fact that no age group yet shows majority of support for same-sex marriage (voters 18-24 are just at 50% according to our poll), this is the kind of thing that is going to take a generational shift to change.
Advocates of same-sex marriage in Utah like to say if Amendment 3 were on the ballot today, it would not pass.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
In 2004, Amendment 3 passed with 66% of the vote. If it were on the ballot today, our poll suggests it would pass with 61%.
So the needle has moved, but just 5% in a decade.
That slow march is frustrating for people who want change now, and are going probably going to get it through the courts.
But the wounds from the loss are going to take a long time to heal for most Utahns.