DP16382 Gay Politics Goes Mainstream: Democrats, Republicans, and Same-Sex Relationships

Author(s): Raquel Fern√°ndez, Sahar Parsa
Publication Date: July 2021
Keyword(s): Cultural change, heterogeneous effects, LGBTQ attitudes, Political parties, Public Opinion
JEL(s): P16, Z1, Z13
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16382

Attitudes towards same-sex relationships in the US have changed radically over a relatively short period of time. After remaining fairly constant for over two decades, opinions became more favorable starting in 1992 - a presidential election year in which the Democratic and Republican parties took opposing stands over the status of gay people in society. What roles did political parties and their leaders play in this process of cultural change? Using a variety of techniques including machine learning, we show that the partisan opinion gap emerged substantially prior to 1992 -- in the mid 1980s -- and did not increase as a result of the political debates in 1992-'93. Furthermore, we identify people with a college-and-above education as the potential "leaders" of the process of partisan divergence.