May 20, 2011 2:24 PM GMT
Thanks to a radical shift in thinking among independents and Democrats during the past year, for the first time in Gallup Poll tracking a clear majority of Americans now approves of gay marriage.
A new Gallup Poll released this morning finds that this month 53% of Americans say same-sex marriage should be recognized in law as equally valid with traditional male-female marriages.
The spurt in support of 9% in the past 12 months was the largest registered since Gallup first tracked the topic in 1996. Back then, only 27% supported same-sex marriage and two-thirds opposed.
Support for same-sex marriages had hovered in the low 40's since about 2004, until the latest figures, showing 59% of independents and 69% of Democrats now support the idea, while 28% of Republicans do. The GOP figure was unchanged from 2010.
The new statistics also show a predictable generational cleavage, with support for gay marriage highest among the youngest (70% among those 18 to 34), declining to 53% among those 35 to 54 years old and weakest among those over 55 (39%) -- although even that segment's support increased six points in the past 12 months.