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Changing Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Marriage: A Three-Wave Panel Study

Opinions toward gay marriage, also known as same-sex marriage, have become dramatically more favorable in the last 20 years. Given the more accepting attitudes of younger Americans, generational replacement is one widely noted engine of change. However, the pace of shifts in public attitudes has been too rapid for this to be the sole explanation. Identifying other causes of increasing support has been difficult due to reliance on cross-sectional associations. Using nationally representative panel data from 2008 to 2016, we test three potential explanations for changes in public attitudes toward gay marriage. Our findings suggest that increased interpersonal contact with gays and lesbians, declining religiosity, and increasing levels of education in the U.S. all contributed to the rise in public support for same-sex marriage.