Alabama is the latest state to overturn its statewide same-sex marriage ban, making it the 37th state that has legalized same-sex marriage or is about to do so. But public opinion on same-sex marriage in the Cotton State stands in strong opposition with the state’s recent ruling: 32 percent of Alabama residents support allowing gay and lesbians couples the right to legally marry, while 59 percent are opposed.
The Atlantic’s David Graham features new state-specific PRRI data to explain why Alabama trails the country on support for same-sex marriage:
The biggest factor in the low support seems to be the high concentration of white evangelical Protestants in those two states—39 percent of Alabamians identify as members of that demographic, double the nationwide average. Even as the rest of the South has undergone huge shifts in opinion toward marriage equality, Alabama and Mississippi remain outliers.
Graham continues, asking PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones to help explain the data:
While Alabama’s opposition marks it as an outlier, the state actually appears to be on the same trajectory as the rest of the nation, just not as far along the curve.
Dig into the details and you can see how. For example, 48 percent of Alabamians under 35 favor gay marriage—not a majority, but a plurality. (Only 21 percent of those older than 65 do.) The strongest predictor for supporting gay marriage nationwide, said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones, is having close gay friends, which is far more common among younger Americans. It’s a larger factor than whether respondents are Republicans or Democrats. Younger Alabamians are far less likely to identify as white evangelical Protestants (just 24 percent) and almost twice as likely to be religiously unaffiliated, as their fellow citizens (19 versus 11 percent).
“This pattern is absolutely consistent across the country,” Jones said. “Younger Americans, whether they come from Alabama or Delaware, are more likely to support same-sex marriage than their parents and grandparents. They’re much more like to have a close friend or family member who’s gay or lesbian. They are much less likely to be religiously affiliated at all.”