As Facebook’s marriage equality meme turned Facebook red yesterday in what appeared to be overwhelming numbers — profile “friend boxes” were commonly turned entirely red by the viral trend — it seemed that the political movement to extend marriage rights to LGBT people had reached an undeniable tipping point.
But did the public suddenly embrace marriage equality as seemingly evidenced by the Facebook meme, or was something else at play?
It’s hard to say. But rockstar statistician Nate Silver gave the numbers a look see as the Supreme Court debated the issue of marriage equality, and has a bit to say about whether public opinion has accelerated in favor of LGBT marriage rights, or it just looks that way.
As the issue washed Facebook avatars in red and reached the floor of the Supreme Court, Silver asked if it was now “safe to say that a majority approves [of marriage equality?]” And it seemed to be the question on many minds yesterday as an issue that was barely discussed just a few years back seemed to have near-universal support on social media.
Silver does an in-depth analysis not only on polls today, but how polls are likely to develop based on past sentiment on marriage equality versus today. And from that data, he concludes:
“Thus, even if one prudently assumes that support for same-sex marriage is increasing at a linear rather than accelerated pace, and that same-sex marriage will not perform quite as well at the ballot booth as in national polls of all adults, the steady increase in support is soon likely to outweigh all other factors.”
Ultimately, he adds:
” … one no longer needs to make optimistic assumptions to conclude that same-sex marriage supporters will probably soon constitute a national majority. Instead, it’s the steadiness of the trend that makes same-sex marriage virtually unique among all major public policy issues, and which might give its supporters more confidence that the numbers will continue to break their way regardless of what the Supreme Court decides.”
You can read Nate Silver’s full analysis on marriage equality over on FiveThirtyEight.