The Blip in the Generational Pyramid

One steady empirical refrain has echoed in almost every poll/study on support for gay rights in America: the older generations are less likely to approve of gay equality.  18-24 year olds are the most supportive, 25-35 are a little less so, 35-45 a little less than that, and on and on.

However, there is an exception that I didn’t know about.  A New Republic author explains and provides his guess as what causes the exception:


But, in the exit polls, there was one age group that interrupted the steady pattern of the data: Those between 50 and 64, while narrowly rejecting gay marriage, 51-49, were actually eight points better on the issue than those between 40 and 49; and they were one point better than even those between 30 and 39.

What could explain this? I have a theory, albeit one that I can’t prove: The 50-to-64 group are the parents of the 18-to-29-year olds who have experienced the sea-change of the past ten years. While they themselves grew up with more conservative attitudes on homosexuality, some now find themselves with gay sons and daughters, gay nieces and nephews; and many more have seen their straight children come of age with close gay friends. Those in the 40-to-49 range, by contrast, are mostly too old to have grown up with legions of out gay friends, but mostly too young to have seen their children experience the new culture being created by people in their 20s–a culture in which it is perfectly normal, even unremarkable, to be gay. 

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