Tennesseans oppose gay marriage more than any other state

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Opposition to gay marriage is more widespread in Tennessee than nearly anywhere else in the country, high even compared to other states in the South, a look at Middle Tennessee State University poll findings suggests.

Nationwide, 43 percent of Americans oppose legalizing gay marriage, while 48 percent support the move, according to polling done throughout 2012 by the Pew Center for the People and the Press.

That is a steep decline in opposition compared with the 51 percent nationwide who opposed legalizing gay marriage in 2008 and the 60 percent who opposed it nationwide in 2004.

In the fall of 2012, a university-sponsored poll of registered voters in Tennessee, however, found 61 percent opposed to legalizing gay marriage and only 24 percent in favor, with the remaining 15 percent unsure — a level of opposition significantly higher than even the 56 percent opposition Pew reported to be typical of the south central region that includes Tennessee as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

“It’s unusual for Tennessee opinion to diverge this sharply from national norms,” said professor Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll, who teaches mass media research in the College of Mass Communication. “Throughout the MTSU Poll’s nearly 15-year history, we’ve often found Tennesseans holding moderately conservative views compared to the rest of the nation, particularly on social issues. But, this is an exceptionally large difference.”

Opposition to legalizing gay marriage hasn’t increased in Tennessee, Blake said.

Rather, it has held steady at around 60 percent while opposition elsewhere in the nation has declined, he said.

One factor behind the steady opposition in Tennessee may be the state’s high numbers of evangelical Christians who accounted for nearly 1 in 4 registered voters in the fall 2012 poll and 68 percent of whom oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry legally.

Among the state’s evangelical voters, whites are more opposed than minorities are, and among white evangelicals, Republicans are more opposed than Democrats or — barely — independents.

“It may be that, more so than many issues, attitudes in Tennessee toward same-sex marriage are tied to evangelical religious convictions that aren’t going to budge unless evangelical leaders signal that a change is OK,” Blake said. “That’s not likely to happen any time soon, although some prominent evangelical leaders backed away from characterizing the Mormon faith as a cult when it became clear that Mitt Romney, a Mormon, would be the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.”

Conducted by telephone Oct. 16-21, 2012, with 609 registered, likely Tennessee voters chosen at random, the poll had an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.

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College of Mass Communication, Culture, Democrats, Gay Marriage, Ken Blake, MTSU, MTSU Poll, Murfreesboro, Politics, Poll, Religion, Republicans, Tennessee
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February 12, 2013 at 4:41pm
This is not at all surprising. Opposition to gay marriage and other social change correlates strongly with high levels of religiosity and with low education levels, especially in logical disciplines such as science and math. Some quotes:

“Tennessee ranks at the bottom in 8th grade reading, 8th grade math, and 4th grade math.”

“Compared to other developed countries, the United States fares poorly in mathematics education. Within the United States, Tennessee's public schools rank near the bottom in standardized test scores in these subjects.”

“On the latest comparison of international math scores, Tennessee ranked 83, sandwiched between Turkey and Uruguay.”

At the same time, Tennessee voters elect representatives who make sure that the Scopes trial stays in the mind of the global community as Tennessee’s contribution to scientific thinking:

“Tennessee law allows creationism theory in classrooms”

Instead of logic and science, Tennessee is globally known for the "Don't Say Gay" bill, the 21st century version of Scopes.

Why is anyone surprised?
February 13, 2013 at 12:01am
BikeGuy, I think the correlation is not as easy as you put it. Society changes are a more liberal idea in the first place. The whole notion of conservative is they do not like to make new laws(basically changes). You could just have easily said Red states and opposition to gay marraige are one and the same. I think this has more to do with your upbringing. You are born with no prejudice or hatred, they are learned traits of humans(I also believe no one is born gay, just my opinion). I do think it is their right to get married. The disdain toward homosexuals is engrained from a young age and if they grew up to be a rocket-scientist I doubt their views would change.
February 13, 2013 at 5:32pm
While we're passing a joint around, ponder this: In states that allow same sex marriage do first cousins of the same sex have the right to marry? If so does that mean that hetro-sexual first cousins should have the same right?
February 15, 2013 at 4:59pm
I'm not exactly sure how the cousin question is remotely relevant. I do agree with Postlooker22 with the exception of people being born gay (but as you said that is your opinion.) I do think that this state is fiercely Republican, religious, and completely backward. I think that it's absolutely ridiculous to let something as arbitrary and topical as religion prevent two people who love each other from getting married. An angrier version of myself would completely support BikeGuy's argument of the correlation between Tennessee's lack of intelligence/education and strong religious stance but I don't want to be that rash. I will say, however, that I am not surprised at all by the opposition to anything homosexual or liberal. I was born and raised in the state and I've had religion and a disdain for anything different force fed to me the entire time, which made me the liberal atheist that I am today. Digression aside, I honestly don't think that this state's views on the subject will ever change because as Postlooker22 pointed out, people aren't born with prejudice or hatred. It's being taught to younger generations, keeping our state's reputation fully intact.
February 16, 2013 at 8:21pm
Darronincheese: The "cousin qustion" is only relevant if you understand that the law in some states (ie.Arkansas,Delaware,,Idaho,and Iowa among others)forbids marriage between first cousins. The reason is that the children produced by first cousins are of greater risk of being born with genetic defects than those of non related couples. Since same sex cousins aren't likely to produce offspring,which law would prevail in states that approve same sex but no first cousins marriage?
February 17, 2013 at 3:14pm
bota, it is legal in tennessee for cousins to marry.
February 17, 2013 at 3:15pm
postlooker, do you honestly believe that people choose to be gay? When did you choose to be straight? I can tell you when ... you didn't. You just found yourself attracted to the opposite sex. It's innate.
February 18, 2013 at 9:17am
Me123:"bota, it is legal in tennessee for cousins to marry." Yes, Tn. is among the over 25 states that allow some form of "Cousin Marriage", but since Tn. does not allow same sex mariages that info has nothing to do with the potential legal question that I was (trying) to point out.
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