The New York Times poll gives us an opening sense of public opinion on the Obama gay marriage announcement (bear in mind that it was a "callback" poll and not done via traditional methodology; Stephanie Cutter was just on TV blasting the methodology):
Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed by The New York Times and CBS News since the announcement said they thought that Mr. Obama had made it “mostly for political reasons,” while 24 percent said it was “mostly because he thinks it is right.” Independents were more likely to attribute it to politics, with nearly half of Democrats agreeing.
Well, whatever the methodology issue, this result doesn't seem crazy to me. Obama was obviously pushed to speed up the big announcement, and since it was done in an election year, duh. This is what I meant back when I was writing that it would look less political and more honorable if he did it next year. But for reasons I'll get into below, I don't think these numbers are some kind of nightmare for the White House either.
Meanwhile there's a Pew poll showing a very mild negative impact. TPM:
In the nationwide survey, 52 percent said last week’s announcement had no effect on their opinion of the president, while 25 percent now view him less favorably and 19 percent view him more favorably.
Among African-Americans — an often socially conservative voting bloc — the story is very much the same: 68 percent said they were unaffected by the announcement, 16 percent view the president more favorably and 13 percent view him less favorably.
Finally, USAToday/Gallup found that the move is a slight plus for the president; 51 percent in that survey backed Obama, while 45 percent disagreed.
Romney appears to know that what I've been writing is true: The positions he adopted during the primary are out of the mainstream and intolerant, and he's better off just shutting up about them.
Historically speaking, it would say something pretty remarkably nice about this country that an incumbent president could endorse gay marriage in the middle of an election year and it didn't hurt him and in fact maybe helped him. Even the Times poll doesn't mean people will vote against him on the basis of these results. I, for one, would have answered that question by saying sure, it was political. But I also happen not to mind that terribly much and to agree with what he did. I doubt very much that I am alone in taking these views. So maybe it will be Obama, not Romney, who will play offense with this issue as the campaign goes on. How about that?