Early voting in the midterm elections is underway. While the economy and abortion rights loom large in the minds of voters, polling shows that marriage equality is actively emerging as a key issue with suburban voters. Republican support for the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) could very well maximize the impact of the looming red political wave.
Four years ago, Democrats made significant gains in Republican-held suburban seats. According to post election analyses in 2018, suburban voters made up more than half (51%) of the overall electorate – an increase of 2% from 2016. And unlike in 2016, when then-candidate Donald Trump carried suburban voters by four points, in 2018 suburbanites split their votes right down the middle – 49% for Republican House candidates, 49% for Democrats. In both 2010 and 2014 elections, suburban voters made up 52% of the electorate but went for Republican candidates by 12 points.
Since that time, there is no public policy issue which has witnessed more significant shifts in support than same-sex marriage. According to Gallup, in the years since the 2015 Obergefell decision public support for same-sex marriage increased by 16%. Today, 71% of Americans favor it, including 55% of Republicans. (RELATED: MCCAUGHEY: It’s Time To Throw Affirmative Action Into The Dustbin Of History)
Going back six months, few anticipated that an issue with such strong public support would impact voter sentiment. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs raised concerns for the more than one million married gay and lesbian Americans. While the majority opinion of the Court held that the ruling should not “cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas called on the high court to “reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” including Obergefell.
Legislation to codify same-sex marriage into federal law is presently before the U.S. Senate and slated for a vote later this year. The RMA would enshrine the right to same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law. LGBTQ rights are now a top-of-mind issue among voters in a number of critical battleground states.
TargetPoint Consulting, a Republican polling firm retained by Centerline Action to assess the sentiments of midterm voters in nine states, recently found that a majority of voters agree that the legalization of same-sex marriage should remain in place. Voters also said they were more likely to support a Senator who voted for the RMA.
Over half of all voters in each state believe same-sex marriages should be recognized as valid by the law. States with a large amount of support include Wisconsin (68%), Alaska (62%), Iowa (62%), Utah (61%), and Missouri (60%). Senators in these target states who vote yes on the RMA would see increased support or no negative impact among their voters.
At least three-quarters of voters in Wisconsin (78%), Alaska (78%), Utah (77%), Iowa (76%) and Indiana (75%) are more likely to support a Senator who votes for the RMA or report no negative impact on their vote.
Valid and legal same-sex marriage is especially popular among critical voting blocs like suburban voters as well as young and middle-aged voters. More than 60% of suburban voters believe that same-sex marriage should be recognized as valid by the law. Furthermore, 66% of suburban voters across these nine states believe that the laws allowing same-sex marriage ought to remain in place.
In July, the U.S. House passed the RMA on a largely bipartisan vote that included 47 Republican supporters. It’s clear that House Republicans recognized then, what we have subsequently seen in our polling. A majority of Republican voters in the states we surveyed agree that “people of faith may disagree on same-sex marriage, and religious and personal freedoms will remain protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
When it comes to codifying the freedom to marry for all loving couples the polling is clear. Republican Senators should pledge to support the Respect for Marriage Act. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s smart politics.
Alicia Downs is a partner at TargetPoint Consulting, a Republican survey research firm that services political candidates, corporate clients and advocacy groups across America.
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