Friday, November 6, 2009

What Familiarity Really Breeds

An underappreciated reason that political change is often slow is that it just takes time for people to get used to the idea. Things that seem crazy the first time you hear about them seem possible the fifth time, and obvious the tenth.

Tuesday gay marriage had what is supposed to be a dramatic setback in Maine, where 53% of the population voted against it. Talking heads are saying that gays need to rethink their strategy. Yes, but... here are the figures on people who voted against it in 2004: Oregon 57%, Michigan 59%, Ohio 62%, and so on up to Mississippi 86%.  Even more dramatically, when the issue of gays in the military first came up in 1993, 44% agreed that gays should be able to serve, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll; the figure was 62% in 2001 and 75% in 2008.

Similarly, in 1965 from 46% to 62% (depending on whether the polling question included the word "tax") favored Medicare. In 2009, 77% said they thought Medicare was very important for the country, and almost another 20% thought it was somewhat important. Undoubtedly, if you could find the data there would be similar results on racial intermarriage, integrated schools, and even abolition of slavery.

Tentative conclusions: If your change is a good one, keep trying. And don't sneer at the courts as a means to social change.

No comments:

Post a Comment