Ideology, Religion Trump Other Factors When It Comes To Supporting Gay Marriage

MADISON – During the past few weeks, several states have shifted their policies in favor of civil unions and gay marriage. These policy changes are to some degree shaped by shifts in public attitudes toward gay marriage. Where do these opinion shifts come from?

According to a new study led by Dietram Scheufele, a professor of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the two main factors are ideology and religiosity, a duo that overpowers the influences of other important factors such as knowledge, tolerance and media consumption.

“Higher levels of tolerance and knowledge are associated with more positive stances toward gay marriage, but that link is much stronger for less religious respondents than it is for more religious respondents,” explains Scheufele, who collaborated with doctoral student Amy Becker on this study. “In other words, religion matters beyond just influencing attitudes. It actually crowds out the influences of other democratic values when people are forming attitudes about gay marriage.”

These findings, published in the current issue of International Journal of Press/Politics, come from a national survey conducted one year before the 2004 presidential election, a time when moral issues were being widely discussed.

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