New Poll Shows Near-Supermajority on Same-Sex Marriage, Obamacare

On the two most contentious issues to be decided this month by the Supreme Court, Americans overwhelmingly favor the liberal position. But will they punish Republicans for disagreeing?

06.08.15 2:50 PM ET

The House of Representatives may look like a Tea Party Patriots rally, but according to a new poll, there’s a liberal supermajority in America. In fact, support for Obamacare and same-sex marriage are now at record highs.

Today, CNN/ORC International released a new poll conducted May 29-31 on the key issues on which the Supreme Court will rule this month, including marriage, Obamacare, voting rights, and free speech. The results are surprising.

Regarding the Affordable Care Act, 43% of respondents said they “generally favor” the legislation. That, itself, is the highest favorable rating since the poll began asking the question in March 2010, when the ACA was passed.

But of the 55% who said they oppose the ACA (interestingly, only 2% had no opinion), 15% oppose the law because it is “not liberal enough.” These 15% are the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren voters who inhabit my favorite coffee shops in Brooklyn. They’re the ones who pushed for a single payer system, or who view the ACA as a giveaway to insurance companies (which, given that it was a Republican idea, it sort of is). 

Add the favorables and the not-liberal-enoughs together, and you’ve got 58% who favor Obamacare, or something (even?) more liberal. That, too, is a record.

Doubtless, the record high numbers for Obamacare reflect that the law appears to be working. That also accounts for the GOP’s relative silence on the issue, despite its being formally on the agenda of every Republican presidential candidate, and still the subject of obsession at conservative think tanks.

Incidentally, support for the ACA varied widely on racial lines, with 49% of white respondents saying the law was good or not liberal enough, compared with 74% of non-white respondents.

Other than Obamacare, the highest-profile issue remaining on the court’s docket is that of same-sex marriage. Here, 63% of respondents said that “gays and lesbians… have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law.”

That number is essentially flat from the last time the question was asked, in February. It reflects a 14 percentage-point jump from five years ago. And while far more Democrats than Republicans support same-sex marriage, both numbers have increased: 35% for Republicans (up from 27% in 2010) and 74% of Democrats (up from 56% in 2010).

Here, however, Republican presidential hopefuls are tripping over themselves to buck the national trend.  Most recently, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said Sunday that he favors a constitutional amendment allowing states to ban gay marriage. 

Why the disconnect? Primary politics, of course. No one except Lincoln Chafee and George Pataki thinks you can win the Republican presidential nomination by running to the center, and no one except their wives thinks they have a chance of winning it. To turn out the base, you’ve got to be against the gays.

The question is whether these disconnects between public opinion and GOP dogma will matter.

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Liberals hope, of course, that these positions come back to haunt the GOP come fall 2016. But there is good reason to be skeptical. Not only have presidential candidates always flip-flopped between April and October, it’s hard to envision many swing voters making a candidate’s stance on marriage or Obamacare the one issue that tips the balance toward Hillary Clinton. 

The new numbers help fill out the picture. On Obamacare, 29% of Republicans and 55% of Independents said that they favor the law, or that it’s not liberal enough. (Note to the 17% of Republicans who said it’s not liberal enough: You are confused.) But do any of them feel so strongly about the issue that it will meaningfully affect their vote? We don’t know.

Marriage might be different: 35% of Republicans and 69% of Independents say gays have a right to marry. The contrary numbers are somewhat higher than those on Obamacare, but more importantly, marriage could become a defining issue in the way that Obamacare is not. It’s a cultural barometer, and a fast-moving target. Hardcore opposition may make a Candidate Walker or Bush seem prejudiced, or out of touch, or too socially conservative.   

That’s especially true given the wingnuts who will likely take to the streets after a Supreme Court ruling.  Every time someone makes a reasonable case for traditional marriage, some moron makes a Neanderthal one—like the Westboro Baptist Church taking on Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling this past week. 

Of course, there are wingnuts against Obamacare too. But opposition to Obamacare isn’t really a moral issue except for those already on the fringes, and it’s easy to distinguish a principled disagreement about the size of government from a ludicrous Tea Party conspiracy theory. 

But on marriage, the gap between the Republican base and the American voter is growing, and the Christian Right is starting to look mean.

Finally, one might wonder: If there’s a near two-thirds liberal supermajority on these key political bellwethers, why is the House so firmly in the hands of the one-third minority? 

Unfortunately, the answer to that question lies far from high-wattage Supreme Court cases, and in the haze of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the enormously successful REDMAP project to create Republican congressional districts any which way but loose. These are the factors that have created a Congress that looks and votes so unlike America, but they’re also issues that make most voters’ eyes glaze over.

Maybe one day, the disconnect will cause some of them to open.