Age, Same-Sex Marriage and Maryland
The younger you are, the more likely you are to support same-sex marriage. What does this mean for Maryland?
Based on Maryland's age distribution and a changing national attitude on same sex marriage, one could expect–surprise–a close referendum fight in November.
Earlier this week, you may have read that increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage is not the result of a nationwide change of heart, but because those opposed tend to be older and are literally dying off.
A study by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found that the increase of acceptance for same-sex marriage is the result of changing, aging demographics and "generational replacement," defined by Pew as "the arrival of younger, more supportive generations making up a larger share of the population."
Nationally, 48 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, up from 35 percent in 2001, according to Pew. Among those born after 1981, the so-called millenial generation, 63 percent support same-sex marriage. Fifty-two percent of generation X-ers support gay marriage. Support drops precipitously from there. Only a third of their silent-generation grandparents do, and only 41 percent of the baby boomer parents of most millenials support same-sex marriage.
So, what does this mean for Maryland's upcoming referendum on legalizing same-sex marriage?
Well, consider that the bell curve of the voting age population in Maryland heavily skews towards a younger population. The Census Bureau tabulates ages in five-year ranges that don't exactly match up with the generational cohorts used by Pew's statisticians, but it is close enough for approximation.
With that in mind, note that 41.7 percent of Maryland's population fell between the ages of 20 and 49, roughly corresponding to the millenial and generation-X cohorts, the two cohorts most likely to support same-sex marriage.
Baby boomers and their silent-generation parents, cohorts significantly more conservative on same-sex marriage, make up only 31.9 percent of the state's population.
But, of course, the only important number is how many people in the respective generations actually vote.
In 2008, Maryland's millenials made up more than 20 percent of the state's population but only accounted for 17 percent of its registered voters, according to a fact sheet from the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Of those youngest registered voters, only 56 percent voted in the 2008 presidential election, up 6 points from 2004.
Baby boomers and the elderly tend to turn out in much greater numbers. State level data is hard to come by, but according to the Census Bureau's 2008 Voting Hot Report, more than 60 percent of voters aged 50 and up voted in the last presidential election.
Based on those statistics, we're back where we started: A close vote.