Polls Show Liberals, Not Santorum, Are The Ones Who Are 'Well Outside The Mainstream'

February 23, 2012 - 5:43 PM

Liberals have an odd sense of what constitutes “mainstream” public opinion.

For example, a February 21 piece by liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson was headlined in the print edition, “The GOP’s Santorum nightmare,” and it warned Republicans that “Santorum’s social conservatism is a huge iceberg.” One of his explanations of the reason jumped out at me:

"He not only opposes gay marriage but has criticized the Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-sodomy laws and declared that 'I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts.' That alone would be enough to put him well outside the mainstream."

Let’s take a look at this. Presumably the words “not only” express a concession that opposition to “gay marriage” alone does not put someone “well outside the mainstream.” After all, President Obama says that he opposes “gay marriage” (but perhaps he gets a pass because not a single policy of his administration is consistent with that professed stance).

However, Santorum has also “criticized the Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-sodomy laws.” This is a reference to the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2003 decision in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. The vote in the case was 6-3, so presumably Robinson thinks that three U. S. Supreme Court Justices were “well outside the mainstream.”

If so, where does that leave the Obama administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which got exactly zero votes out of nine on the Supreme Court for its position that Christian churches and schools do not have the right to pick their own ministers, in the recent case of Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC?

Perhaps Robinson was referring not to the Court itself, but to public opinion. But in 2003 (which is when Santorum made these remarks, although Robinson did not explain that), Gallup polled Americans on the question, “Do you think homosexual relations between consenting adults should or should not be legal.”

Six months after the Lawrence decision, only 41 percent of Americans agreed with the Court that they “should be legal,” while 49 percent said they “should not be legal.” If the 49 percent plurality who agreed with Sen. Santorum in 2003 were “well outside the mainstream,” what are we to say about people who believe that abortion “is morally acceptable?” Only 38 percent of Americans expressed that view in a 2010 Gallup Poll.

(For the record: although both Family Research Council and Sen. Santorum disagreed with the Lawrence decision, neither has made or is making any effort to overturn it and reinstate criminal laws against homosexual conduct.)

Sen. Santorum’s statement, “I have no problem with homosexuality” would appear to put him well to the left of his social conservative base – perhaps in line with the 58 percent of Americans who said “homosexuality should be accepted by society” in a 2011 Pew poll.

But, “homosexuality” can refer to attractions, behavior, self-identification or a combination thereof; we have no way of knowing which was in the minds of those answering the poll.

In context, Sen. Santorum’s statement should perhaps be taken to mean, “I have no problem with homosexual persons.” But does adding, “I have a problem with homosexual acts” put him “well outside the mainstream?”

Well, the Gallup Poll in 2010 showed that 52 percent believed “gay or lesbian relations” were “morally acceptable,” while 43 percent believed they are “morally wrong.” Forty-three percent may be a minority position – but it is hardly “well outside the mainstream,” like those who consider suicide (15 percent), “cloning humans” (nine percent), or polygamy (seven percent) to be “morally acceptable.”

“Gay or lesbian relations,” however, is a rather gentle term for sexual acts between a man and a man or between a woman and another woman, one almost calculated to draw a more sympathetic response.

Until 2008, Gallup used the term “homosexual relations” – and that year, there was an even split between those who found them “acceptable” and “wrong,” 48 percent to 48 percent. Until 2004, they had used the term “homosexual behavior” – closer to Santorum’s term “homosexual acts” – and in that year (a year after Santorum’s comments), a clear majority of 54 percent found such sexual “behavior” to be “morally wrong,” while only 42 percent considered it “morally acceptable.”

In any case, if the 43 percent of Americans (at least) who share Sen. Santorum’s disapproval of “homosexual acts” are “well outside the mainstream,” what about those who support President Obama’s health care plan and oppose its repeal? Like those who find abortion “morally acceptable,” they represent only 38 percent of the American public.

Even as I write this, Sen. Santorum is being mocked on another issue, for saying that he believes in the devil – a position shared by 60 percent of Americans.

It’s time for liberals (especially inside-the-Beltway liberal newspaper columnists) to realize that they have no clue about what is “mainstream” opinion in America.

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