NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The new research by the Gallup Organization reveals a generation gap in the country's debate over same-sex "marriage".
According to the research, 55 percent of adults oppose legalizing same-sex "marriage," while 39 percent support it.
However, 61 percent of young adults (ages 18-29) say they support legalizing same-sex "marriage." The 18-29 age bracket is the only one in the poll generally supportive of the controversial issue.
Among those ages 30-49, only 37 percent support same-sex "marriage." The level of support is 40 percent for those ages 50-64, and a mere 22 percent for those ages 65 and older.
Gallup's research, released July 22, is based on two separate polls -- one of 1,003 adults in June and another of 1,005 adults in May.
Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, attributed the numbers among young adults to two factors: sex education in the public schools and homosexual-friendly entertainment.
"Clearly, we are losing the battle for hearts and minds [of young adults] to the pop culture, to MTV, to Disney and ABC, and to the other networks who are constantly bombarding our young people with positive images of homosexuality," he told Baptist Press.
Another social conservative, Focus on the Family's Glenn Stanton, told Baptist Press he believes that support among young adults for same-sex "marriage" is thin and is "not gained by strong conviction." It is a "shrug of the shoulders" position reflected in the "whatever" bumper stickers popular among youth, he said.
"When you put forth some well-reasoned arguments," minds begin changing, said Stanton, Focus on the Family's director of social research and cultural affairs. "I think we can gain a lot of those young people back."
Pointing to other polls showing that young adults are "a little more conservative" than their parents, Stanton said those same adults have a higher view of marriage than their parents did -- "primarily because of the way their own parents' marriage worked out," ending in divorce.
The overall Gallup poll numbers mirror those of other recent polls. A Time/CNN poll of 1,004 adults in July found that 60 percent were opposed to legalizing same-sex "marriage," while 33 percent were for it. Also, a Wirthlin poll of 1,000 adults in March showed that 57 percent support passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would change the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex "marriage."
The Gallup poll, though, shows erosion in the opposition to homosexual "marriage." In 1996, 68 percent of Americans opposed same-sex "marriage" while 27 percent supported it. By 1999 those numbers were 62 percent for, 35 percent against. When including the new poll, opposition to same-sex "marriage" has declined 13 points in only seven years.
"There is a little bit of good and bad," Stanton said of the newest Gallup poll. "The good is that the numbers are what they are. The bad is that the numbers seem to be slowly slipping a bit."
Stanton attributed the slippage in same-sex "marriage" opposition to what Harvard University professor Mary Ann Glendon called "rights talk."
"Our moral discussion within our nation has come down to that," Stanton said. The homosexual community "has seized upon that very successfully -- 'we want everyone to have the right to do everything.'"
Once same-sex "marriage" becomes a reality -- perhaps with a ruling from Massachusetts' highest court any day -- the opposition to same-sex "marriage" will increase, Stanton predicted. Americans only recently have begun debating the issue, he said.
"It's hard to warn people and have people get ready and prepare for an earthquake when they don't have any sense that that earthquake is coming," he said. A ruling for same-sex "marriage," he said, would be an earthquake.
Additionally, he said, social conservatives have not done a good job educating the public about the dangers of same-sex "marriage," Stanton said.
"[W]e need to start doing that," he said. "As the conversation becomes more serious, we will."
Land said the clock is ticking for the country to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. If it doesn't, courts will decide the issue, he said.
"If we don't win this struggle in five years, the courts will have made homosexual marriage a fact," he said. "We've got five years to prevent that from happening, to win the struggle for hearts and minds, to activate those hearts and minds and to get this passed."
Gallup also asked adults their thoughts on civil unions, which give homosexuals the legal benefits of marriage without the term "marriage." Vermont is the only state to have such unions. The population was split -- 49 percent of adults support legalizing civil unions, 49 percent oppose it.