Same-Sex Marriage, Public Opinion, and the "Seinfeld Effect"
"In the 1993 Seinfeld episode “The Outing,” a female reporter mistakes Jerry Seinfeld and his friend George Costanza for homosexual partners. When her misunderstanding dawns on them, they vehemently deny that they are gay, yet constantly punctuate their denials with the rote expression “not that there’s anything wrong with that!” As heterosexual men, Jerry and George are both keen to be taken for what they are, but there’s more to it than that: they can’t entirely inhibit revulsion at the idea that others think they are homosexual, and perhaps revulsion at the very idea of being homosexual.
Their repeated exclamation “not that there’s anything wrong with that!”—invariably uttered with far less passion than their denials—is a socially conditioned response. Somewhere they have learned that it is unacceptable to cast aspersions on homosexuality, and that the politically correct response is to say (as Jerry does at one point, albeit rather too excitedly), “People’s personal sexual preferences are nobody’s business but their own!” Jerry and George struggle to suppress what they really think with what they have been taught to think is “enlightened opinion.” Call it the Seinfeld Effect.
Seventeen years later, the advocates of same-sex marriage are making “people’s personal sexual preferences” everybody’s business, and are counting on the Seinfeld Effect to suppress what most Americans really think about same-sex marriage. They are waging their struggle, after all, not just in courts of law but also in the court of public opinion, and the advocates’ success with certain judges will not be secure unless most Americans are with them. So how are they doing?
A CNN/Gallup poll released on August 11 found that 52% of respondents supported and only 46% opposed same-sex marriage—a result widely trumpeted as the first time a majority expressed this view. But in an important finding, a North Carolina firm called Public Policy Polling discovered that its method of automated polling or “robo-calls,” in which respondents interact on their phone with a computer-controlled interview system rather than a human interviewer, yields significantly higher numbers of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage." (More....)