Free DP Download 22 July 2021 - GAY POLITICS GOES MAINSTREAM: Democrats, Republicans, and Same-Sex Relationships

Thursday, July 22, 2021

GAY POLITICS GOES MAINSTREAM: Democrats, Republicans, and Same-Sex Relationships
Raquel Fernández, Sahar Parsa
CEPR DP No. 16382 July 2021

The presidential election and the subsequent congressional debates in 1992-'93 are associated with a dramatic change in opinion towards same-sex relationships. Given that the parties adopted opposing platforms towards gay individuals serving openly in the military, one might expect that opinions would have diverged along the lines of party identification. A new CEPR study by Raquel Fernández and Sahar Parsa shows that this is not the case.

The authors investigate the role of political parties and their leaders in the process of cultural change towards gay people in the United States. The authors 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. They also identify people with a college-and-above education as the potential "leaders" of the process of partisan divergence. Among the findings:

  • After remaining fairly constant for over two decades, opinions towards same-sex relationships became more favourable 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. 
  • Although there was little aggregate change in approval of same-sex relationships prior to 1992, this static image hides a significant increase in divergence by party identification, with those who identify as Democrats becoming more positive relative to those who identify as Republicans.
  • Prior to 1984, the average partisan gap in the approval of same-sex relationships was 4.4 percentage points. This gap widened in the mid eighties and stabilised by 1989 to 17.6 percentage points, remaining relatively constant throughout the nineties.
  • Highly-educated individuals (those with college and above) were important contributors to the increase in opinion gap across party lines. In particular, individuals with a college education and above. 
  • By way of contrast, individuals with a high-school-and-below education showed almost no partisan differentiation in their approval of same-sex relationships prior to the late nineties.
  • The national party elite (interpreted as the presidential candidates or as reflected in the national party platforms) were not the leaders in generating partisan differences as evidenced by the stable opinion gap by party identification over the '90s.

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