David: The survey does show increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage over the course of students’ college careers. So you’re right, campus culture significantly influences students’ views. But the survey also notes that self-described “far right” students arrive on campus already disposed more favorably toward same-sex marriage than older conservatives. One in four of the most conservative students support same-sex marriage by the time they reach college, according to the UCLA study.
As for turning back the tide, consider this bit from the Chronicle piece:
Support for gay marriage has increased generally in the past decade. In 2000, 56 percent of entering college students backed it. Four years later, freshmen were 57 percent supportive at the time they enrolled, and by graduation, 69 percent of that entering class supported gay marriage, according to the UCLA research institute.
In my view, an increased prevalence of openly gay entertainment figures, combined with the trend of gay teens’ “coming out” younger and younger (as early as junior high these days), has made this generation much more comfortable with homosexuality than previous generations were. While some, as you point out, will change their views later in life, the trend is overwhelming.
Gay-marriage advocates are losing legal battles right now, but they are winning the hearts of the young. In this way, they are winning, I think, the most important battle.