Millennial voters are the driving force behind one of the most profound shifts in public opinion we have ever witnessed: the transformation of American society into one that embraces gays and lesbians’ legal right to marry the person they love.
With nearly each new poll released on the freedom to marry, we hit a new high for public support. And while no demographic has been immune from this trend, millennials stand out for their resoundingly robust support.
A recent Washington Post/ABC poll revealed that 81% of 18-29 year olds say gay marriage should be legal. While this number is remarkable in its own right, consider that this is an increase of 24 percentage points when compared to the youth of 2004.
Even when we look at demographic groups more reluctant to embrace marriage equality, a stark generational divide becomes evident: according to that same Washington Post/ABC poll, 64% of Evangelical millennials support the rights of same-sex couples to marry legally, as well as 52% of Republicans under the age of 50.
To borrow a phrase from National Journal’s Ron Brownstein: these numbers are a postcard from the future. Youth voters offer us a preview of tomorrow’s electorate, in which millennials are dominant. Consider the arithmetic: Millennials currently outnumber Baby Boomers by 10 million, and they will be the largest single generational voting block by 2016, when they will account for 34% of the voting age population. In seven short years, all millennial voters will be of voting age, and we’ll see the first signs of the as-yet-unnamed generation that follows.
In simulations run on behalf of Project Right Side by my firm, TargetPoint Consulting, we’ve projected that demographic change alone – driven by generational replacement and the growing minority population – could drive support levels for same sex marriage up above 60% over the next few political cycles. If we factor in how rapidly minds are actually changing as well, we could see support levels grow well above 70% in just about 10 years.
America is changing, and it is changing fast. Indeed, Americans understand this and can see the writing on the wall: 72% of Americans – and furthermore 73% of Republicans – see legal same sex marriage as inevitable.
Millennials are coming of age in a society where an individual’s sexuality is uncontroversial; this is reflected in their attitudes towards the freedom to marry. The Supreme Court – set to rule shortly on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and DOMA – would be wise to consider the emerging sociological and political force that is the millennial generation.