The Corner

Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion Cont.

Jonah, Jason, and Nicholas have all had insightful comments on NRO about the link between same-sex marriage and abortion. In modern politics, the two have certainly been linked. This is because attitudes toward the morality of premarital sex are very strongly correlated with opinions toward both abortion and same-sex marriage, so activists, elected officials, and organizations who have opposed abortion are also very likely to oppose same-sex marriage.

Interestingly, however, the strength of the link seems to vary somewhat among demographic groups.  For instance, many polls show that young people are supportive of same-sex marriage. However, a growing body of survey research also indicates that young people are becoming more likely to support limiting abortion in specific circumstances. The General Social Surveys (GSS) since the year 2000 provide very robust evidence of this, while recent polls conducted by the Polling Company and McLaughlin Associates also find that young people are actually more likely than older Americans to support incremental pro-life laws like waiting periods, parental involvement laws, and the Pain Capable Unborn Protection Act. There remains little evidence, however, that young adults are about to favor banning abortion.


Thus, there may be some specific circumstances where the two issues diverge politically, but in practical terms pro-lifers and supporters of traditional marriage need to collaborate. Over the past 40 years, social conservatives have learned to recognize the importance of culture. Indeed, liberal attitudes toward sex facilitated the legalization of abortion, and widespread legalization of abortion likely shifted sexual mores in a more liberal direction, too. A similar dynamic may be at work with same sex marriage: More liberal opinions about sexual activity are part of the reason support for same-sex marriage has increased, and it seems quite possible that same-sex marriage will further drive more liberal attitudes toward sex.

Social conservatives may well discover that advocating for a chaste culture is far more difficult than advocating either for either the unborn or for traditional marriage. But 40 years of experience has provided strong evidence that the culture must shift for social conservatives to make substantial progress on our long-term policy goals. 

— Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.


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