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Fifty-five percent of millennials, or about 11.5 million Americans, support gay rights, a poll released Thursday by The Economist said. The poll found that the number of voters who had seen a gay couple kissing at home or in a restaurant rose from just 15 percent in 1998 to 35 percent last year.
The results surprised pollsters, who believed that the majority of people were opposed to gay marriage.
“It surprised me,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told msnbc. “The gay rights argument seems to have become somewhat less controversial among younger generations — it used to be that the younger side won in every battleground election for decades.”
But what about the more recent polling?
“If the current trend continues, we are on track to close the 20-year gap between support for same-sex unions and opposition,” said Mark Longabaugh, a political scientist at Rutgers School of Public Advocacy, in a statement.
In November 2011, Gallup found that 59 percent of those 50 and older wanted gay marriage to be legal. In contrast, 52 percent of millennials said same-sex marriage should be allowed.
In the latest poll, the number of millennials who support gay rights increased from 11.5 percent in 2002 to 31 percent in 2014, according to the poll.
“In 2002, the number of millennials who agreed with the statement was 25 percent, but it would rise to 59 percent by 2014. The current support levels are remarkable, especially when viewed against the overall numbers for all age groups,” said Sabato, who did not take part in the poll, but gave his assessment of the issue.
The poll found that younger generations in general were significantly more supportive than elders in the past.
On average, millennials said they support gay marriage at 58 percent, as opposed to the 63 percent of seniors in general, the pollster said.
“If the current trend continues, we are on track to close the 20-year gap between support for same-sex unions and opposition.”
Gallup President Dan Cassino told msnbc that this
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