Author

Adria Neal

Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

5-2016

Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Department

Political Science

Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Same sex- marriage; Obergefell v. Hodges; U.S. v. Windsor; Hollingsworth v. Perry; Public support

Abstract

Many have argued that Supreme Court decisions on culture war issues, issues that cause conflict between conservative and liberal values, stifle public progression on the very problems they are meant to resolve. They often cite political and electoral backlash following a decision as evidence of this stagnation in opinion. However, this backlash may not be representative of widespread public opinion. In order to understand the relationship between Court decisions and public opinion, changes in opinion on culture war issues following a Supreme Court ruling must be measured. This study utilizes national and state survey data in order to examine this relationship. It measures changes in support for same-sex marriage nationwide as well as in the state of Kentucky following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Changes in support for same-sex marriage among various racial groups, religious groups, and members of political parties following Obergefell are also assessed. Findings show that Court decisions precede changes in overall support as well as changes in the gaps in support between racial groups, religious groups, and parties. Changes in nationwide support following Obergefell did not reach significance; therefore, the effect of the decision on support could not be measured. Changes in support on the state level following the ruling also could not be determined because of differences in question wording following the decision. Future research should utilize survey data with consistent questions before and after the Court’s ruling in order to adequately examine changes in support for same-sex marriage. It should also control for other variables in order to isolate the effect of Court decisions.

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