THE POWER OF ATTITUDES
The other day a client and I were discussing the power of attitudes and their impact in jury selection. We were on the point of discussing how attitudes tend to change slowly over time and how those attitudes can often be associated with a generation. Historically, you can identify gaps between generations in their attitude toward certain issues.
The conversation then turned on a question: “If attitudes are slowly changing society, why are all of the politicians suddenly falling over themselves to support gay marriage?” The answer is that attitudes toward gay or lesbian relations have changed faster in the last decade than what is typical. Between 2001 and 2013 Gallup has poll results showing a whopping 19% increase in approval. Today, 59% of Americans approve. If you are a politician, it is your job to look at poll data whether you want to admit it or not. Unless you represent an extremely socially conservative constituency, chances are, you may not have a job if this issue turns out to be important to your voters on Election Day.
So, where is the generation gap these days? Views on the death penalty, divorce, and suicide are all very close. When a pollster asks the question, “Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that, in general, it is morally acceptable or morally wrong,” what issue creates the biggest gap between 18 to 34 year olds and those 55 and older:
Number 1 is Pornography while 49% of “younger” Americans believe it is morally acceptable, a mere 19% of “older” Americans feel it is morally acceptable—a full 30 percentage points of difference. Number 2 on the list is “Sex between teenagers” at 26 percentage points of difference. Number three (ironically enough) is gay or lesbian relations where the difference is 23 percentage points.
Considering this information, negative attitudes on gay and lesbian relations are more concentrated in those 55 and older, so while 59% of Americans currently approve, it follows that this number will continue to climb in the coming years.
…and so will the support from politicians.