YouGov is in the field each week on Saturday mornings with a nationwide, 1,000-person survey. Today, I’m going to look at the surveys before and after President Obama’s ABC interview during which he came out in support of same-sex marriage.
The interview made news for days — and was the topic of endless speculation about whether black voters would “follow obama” on gay marriage. Others wondered: Why was he doing it? Why now? And, of course, what effect would it have on the 2012 election?
The questions stirring in the journalistic community were intense and the conversation from coast to coast, among those interested in politics, relentless.
And yet – very little of interest has happened to public opinion as a consequence of Obama’s revelation. The week before his announcement, 49% of Americans in the YouGov poll supported gay marriage. The week after — 48%, a change far too small to take seriously. Essentially – opinion in general did not move at all after Obama’s interview.
Pooling all 2011 pre-announcement interviews and comparing them to the one post-announcement survey (so we have 1,427 blacks), support for gay marriage changed not at all – 41% before and 41% after. Because our data are a panel, we can compare people’s opinions in December of 2011 to their opinions during the week in which they were interviewed in 2012 (everyone gets two interviews). When we look at how many people are changing – moving off of their initial position to a different one – we find no change in the number of African Americans moving pre and post announcement. About 12-15% are switching their positions regardless of whether we interview them after Obama’s support of the policy or before. But – and here’s the most interesting tidbit – if you changed your opinion before the announcement, there was a 50-50 change you were moving in either direction. But of those who changed after his announcement, 85% moved toward the more supportive position. While there are very few cases to evaluate in the one week after the interview, the result is still statistically distinguishable from zero.
Now, let’s look at white opinion. Before the interview, 54% of the changers (people moving from their December position on gay marriage) were moving toward support. And after the interview, that share drops to 47% — too small to call it different in statistical terms, but an order of magnitude smaller than the change among blacks! To be clear, most people did not change their opinion after Obama’s support of gay marriage, but among those who did, blacks were far more likely to move toward Obama’s position than were whites.
And here’s one more way race is playing a role: Whites with low levels of racial prejudice were more likely to change their position on gay marriage after the announcement than those with high levels of racial prejudice. This result holds even if we control for other things that might drive a reaction to Obama’s announcement (and positions on gay marriage) like party identification and ideology.
Whites with low-levels of racial prejudice who changed their position after the interview were more likely than those with high-levels of prejudice to move toward supporting Obama’s position. The announcement itself had no effect on the positions of these switchers – it was the combination of the announcement and their level of racial prejudice that motivated the movement.
Lynn Vavreck is associate professor of political science and communication studies at UCLA. Ryan Ennos is assistant professor at Harvard University.
Self-confessed city flâneur Avner de-Shalit was recently interviewed by fellow Princeton University Press author Diane Coyle. Professor de-Shalit is the author of The Spirit of Cities, along with co-author Daniel A. Bell:
Which are your favourite books about cities by other authors, and why?
If it’s a sociology of cities I like coming back to Georg Simmel’s classic book, but it’s because I think the opposite — he thought it was impossible to
create a sense of community in the city and I think it’s the only place where a genuine community can rise. But my best cities book is Yehuda Amichai’s poems book on Jerusalem. I wish I could do the same: squeeze the entire city into two to three sentences.
Of all the cities you’ve visited which are the most interesting to walk around?
Well, I am biased. I am just in love with Jerusalem, and it’s such a lunatic city. Half of its inhabitants believe they have a direct line to God. But outside my city, I think Berlin is the most exciting city today. One can see that the city simply changes every day, and that people are excited about it. The combination of ultra modern architecture with the remains of the Communist architecture, and the abundance of sites of collective memory — this is just amazing. Not very easy for somebody Jewish like me, but still, terribly interesting.
Well, now that Time Square NYC is walkable, there is hope. In the US there is a list of the 50 most walkable cities and the 50 which are most friendly to cyclists. While cars still dominate today’s cities, at least planners and mayors are well aware of the need to think differently.
If you had to choose another city to live in, which would it be?
Oxford, Oxford, Oxford. When I studied there one of my professors heard me saying I liked it a lot, and he said: But you know it’s not a real place. Now I know he was wrong. Oxford is a city which is full of life and energy and creativity. Only one has to get away from the colleges, to walk in the neighbourhoods. You can see artists, novelists, poets, and people who want to be artists, novelists and poets.
This interview was originally published on Diane Coyle’s blog, The Enlightened Economist
Are you a big fan of flying reptiles?
Here at the PUP, we certainly are. Last year we gave you a sneak peak at a book we have in development with author Mark Witton on Pterosaurs. If you are not quite sure what a Pterosaur is, here’s an image to give you an idea:
That’s why we at the press are very pleased to announce the launch of Mark Witton’s new blog, at which you can find more of the beautiful images and information about Pterosaurs (such as this characterization by Witton himself: “Even the boring ones have natty looking teeth and preposterous bodily proportions, while more extreme variants wouldn’t look out of place in a Guillermo del Toro movie.”)
Check it out, and stay on the lookout for more news about the Pterosaurs release!
Harvard Business School professor Max Bazerman and Notre Dame business ethics professor Ann Tenbrunsel are taking questions about business, ethics, and everything in between over at Freakonomics, so make sure to post your queries and comments here.
While you’re there, make sure to read the authors’ recent guest post adapted from their recent Princeton book, Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It.