If you are a casual reader of newspapers you can hardly fail to note the attention paid to the idea the majority now support SSM. When a group of Hollywood celebrities called on Pres. Obama to join the "majority of Americans" in support of gay marriage, PolitiFact, the allegedly non-partisan fact-checking outfit judged it "mostly true" (even though amusingly the experts they consulted said it was not yet true).
There is one polling company however that finds no such trend: PPP polling, which is a hard-core Democratic and liberal polling firm.
Back in August, the PPP poll, asking a question similar to the recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, found 57 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage and just 33 percent support it.
Since January, PPP has teamed up with the Daily Kos and the question it asks about gay marriage has changed. Rather than asking whether gay marriage should be legal or "illegal" (which sounds like criminalizing behavior), the Daily Kos/PPP poll asks whether registered voters believe "gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, or gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry, or there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship."
What is the recent trend line in this poll?
In January, 34 percent supported gay marriage. By early March only 31 percent did.
Other pollsters have asked a similar poll question (gay marriage, civil unions or no legal recognition) -- and found that in 2009 somewhere between 33 percent and 42 percent said they favored gay marriage.
In other words, the PPP poll suggests there has been no recent increase in support for gay marriage.
Why is the Democrats' favorite pollster producing results so different from many other mainstream polling outfits?
Back in August, in a press release PPP (once the gap between its polling and other polls was already evident) suggested the real reason:
"Obviously these poll results are very different from a CNN poll earlier this week that showed Americans moving in support of gay marriage, but disparities between live interviewer and the automated polling we do on this issue are not a new thing. Last fall our polling in Maine showed an anti-gay marriage measure passing by 4 points while live interviewer polls by Democracy Corps and Pan Atlantic SMS showed it failing by 9 and 11 points respectively. The measure did end up passing by a margin of 5.5 points.
Why the disparity between automated and live interviewer polls on gay marriage? Americans are still biased against gay people...but some of them know that's wrong and they shouldn't be. Because of that they're more likely to tell their true feelings on an automated poll where there's no social anxiety concern than to a live interviewer who they may be worried about the reaction of."
Gay marriage advocates are no longer persuading, they are intimidating and silencing. If people are afraid to tell the strange person on the phone their real views on marriage, that in itself is evidence of a culturally significant shift--but not one to crow about.
This is an interpretation and time will tell: but this interpretation has the advantage of being totally consistent with the results of recent elections on the issue.
Americans do not believe that gay unions are marriages. But they now understand that America is becoming a place where people have to be wary about saying what they believe.