Tuesday, May 15, 2012

President Obama, Same-Sex Marriage, and Personal Politics

Last week, President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage in a highly watched interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts.

The news media and political pundits have spent the past week or so discussing the implications of President Obama's statement, focusing on consequences for public opinion and the likely outcome of the November 2012 election.

Some, myself included, have speculated about the political implications for states like Maryland that are currently embroiled in the debate. Others have spent considerable time reacting to North Carolina's vote to pass Amendment One banning same-sex unions -- here's just one example of how celebrity politics can coalesce around an issue debate.

Beyond the polls and the speculation, some journalists have chosen to focus on the personal nature of the issue, a theme that dominates my own recent research on public opinion toward same-sex marriage. As I show in a new article in The International Journal of Public Opinion Research, social contact is an important factor influencing attitudes across multiple generations. Moreover, the closer the degree of social or personal contact, the greater the impact on attitudes.

By next week, the focus will likely be on the economy again and the contrasts between Obama and Romney's approach. In the meantime, it's interesting to look at the same-sex marriage issue from a variety of different perspectives including how the characters we see on television help to cultivate our attitudes on the same-sex marriage issue.

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