President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage has been met with cheers from his supporters and raised eyebrows from some election analysts. To say the least, it’s a gamble. In many of the 2012 swing states, constitutional bans on same sex marriage have passed by large margins. Of the commonly discussed swing states for the 2012 election, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Iowa, and New Hampshire have not had same sex marriage amendments on the ballot. In the rest, amendments to ban it have passed, often by large margins. The narrowest margin was a 2006 amendment in Colorado, which passed by 12 points.
Since 1998, state amendments to ban or expand same sex marriage or domestic partnerships have been voted on 33 times. Only once has an effort to ban gay marriage failed, and only once has an amendment expanding domestic partnerships succeeded. In 2006, a proposition to ban gay marriage and civil unions failed in Arizona, 48 percent in favor and 52 percent opposed. Arizona would later pass a similar amendment in 2008. In 2009, Washington passed a referendum to expand domestic partnerships. The referendum passed 53 percent in favor to 47 percent opposed. However, Washington is not considered a swing state. Arizona, while considered a swing state by some, is listed as a likely Republican state by many experts, including Charlie Cook.
National polls have shown Americans are equally divided on the question of gay marriage. In a Gallup poll this week, 50 percent of national adults agreed that “marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages.” Forty-eight percent disagreed. Gallup’s trend shows support gradually ticking upward since the mid-1990s. However, the realities of the Electoral College make Obama’s endorsement a questionable election year gamble. But after the headlines fade on Obama’s endorsement, the impact on the election is likely to be little. Less than 1 percent told Gallup that gay rights issues were the most important problem in the country. Thirty-two percent listed the economy and 25 percent said jobs.