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Journal of Homosexuality
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An Analysis of Factors Affecting Attitudes

Toward Same-Sex Marriage: Do the Media

Tien-Tsung Lee PhD & Gary R. Hicks PhD

William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass

Communications, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA

Department of Mass Communications, Southern Illinois University

Edwardsville, Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
Published online: 27 Oct 2011.

To cite this article: Tien-Tsung Lee PhD & Gary R. Hicks PhD (2011) An Analysis of Factors Affecting
Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Marriage: Do the Media Matter?, Journal of Homosexuality, 58:10,
1391-1408, DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2011.614906
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2011.614906


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Journal of Homosexuality, 58:13911408, 2011

Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0091-8369 print/1540-3602 online
DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2011.614906

An Analysis of Factors Affecting

Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Marriage:
Do the Media Matter?
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William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Kansas,
Lawrence, Kansas, USA


Department of Mass Communications, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA

Using a survey of more than 5,000 American consumers, this

study examines connections between attitudes toward same-sex
marriage and media consumption. A positive attitude is predicted
by being liberal and less religious, supporting gender and racial
equality, willing to try anything once, considering television the
primary form of entertainment, watching political talk shows,
and reading blogs. The theoretical and methodological contributions and real-world implications of these findings are discussed.
KEYWORDS gay marriage, media effects, same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage has become an importantand usually polarizingissue
in both national and state politics. In the 2004 election, more than 10 states
had the issue on their ballots (Campbell & Monson, 2008; Hester & Gibson,
2007). In 2008, the same issue was on the ballot in Arizona, California,
and Florida (McKinley & Goodstein, 2008). Even though gay marriage was
not shown to have affected the outcome of the 2004 and 2008 presidential
elections, it was at least an emotional and divisive issue among many voters
(Campbell & Monson, 2008; Cane, 2008; McKinley & Goodstein, 2008; Pitzl,
2008). The 2008 decision by California voters to approve Proposition 8,
the initiative that defined marriage as an exclusively heterosexual union, set
the stage for what many see as a landmark legal case for gay marriage, one
Address correspondence to Tien-Tsung Lee, William Allen White School of Journalism
and Mass Communications, University of Kansas, 1435 Jayhawk Boulevard, Lawrence, KS
66045-7575, USA. E-mail: ttlee@ku.edu

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T.-T. Lee and G. R. Hicks

that might end in the U.S. Supreme Court (Farrell, 2010). In the November
2009 election, Maines marriage equality law was repealed, but voters in
Washington State passed a registered domestic partnerships law (Ring, 2009).
In 2011, gay marriage was contested in several states, including Minnesota
and Rhode Island (Broverman, 2011a, 2011b). There is no doubt that the
battle of same-sex marriage will continue to be played out in American
politics and courts.
A sizable amount of research on attitudes toward homosexuality
focused on factors influencing Americans stance on this issue (e.g., Herek,
1988; 2002; Hicks & Lee, 2006; Lewis, 2003). In comparison, little research
exists on the predictors of citizens attitudes toward same-sex marriage (e.g.,
Brumbaugh, Sanchez, Nock, & Wright, 2008; Burnett & Salka, 2009; Lewis &
Gossett, 2008). There are a few studies on the coverage, framing, or rhetoric
of gay marriage in the news media (e.g., Bennett, 2006; Hester & Gibson,
2007; Hull, 2001). In addition, scholars have analyzed how gay and lesbian
figures are portrayed in mass media (e.g., Gross, 1993, 1994; Hicks, 2003;
Tropiano, 2002). A gap in the literature exists on whether or not the consumption of mass media is related to audiences attitudes toward same-sex
marriage, which is the focus of the present study.
Based on a survey of more than 5,000 Americans, this study examines whether demographic, psychographic and lifestyle variables, and media
usage are associated with their attitudes toward same-sex marriage.

Determinants of Attitudes
Much research has been conducted on Americans attitudes toward homosexuality and homosexuals. Some of them documented the trends of public
opinion (Brewer & Wilcox, 2005; Hicks & Lee, 2006; Yang, 1997). The
majority of them focused on the determinants of Americans attitudes and
concluded that those who are younger, female, White, liberal, less religious,
and Democrats are more likely to hold a favorable attitude toward gays
and lesbians, or same-sex marriage (Brumbaugh et al., 2008; Campbell &
Monson, 2008; Herek, 1998, 2002; Herek & Capitanio, 1995, 1999; Lewis,
2003; Lewis & Gossett, 2008). Gaines and Garand (2010) found that
Americans opinion on same-sex marriage is associated with their religious
and moral attitudes, their attitudes toward gender roles, support for gay
rights, and liberalconservative ideologies. These two authors also reported
that individuals support for womens rights or minority and civil rights was
not associated with same-sex marriage attitudes.
Many of the studies mentioned earlier used local or regional data, or
a relatively small sample. For instance, Brumbaugh and colleagues (2008)
analyzed three telephone surveys conducted in Arizona, Louisiana, and

Same-Sex Marriage


Minnesota. Gaines and Garand (2010) used a national survey sample with
620 participants. The present authors wanted to find out whether using a
larger and national sample would produce the same results.

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Media Effects
Although there have been debates on the effects of mass media, scholars
generally agree that the mass media, especially the news media, can influence citizens learning of issues, and attitude formation or change (Bryant &
Zillmann, 2009). Take the agenda-setting theory as an example. Even though
the news media might not be able to tell the audience what to think, they can
at least tell the audience what to think about (McCombs, 2004; McCombs &
Shaw, 1972; Wanta, Golan, & Lee, 2004). Cultivation analysis also argues
that television can either subtly, directly, or cumulatively influence viewers
perception of reality (Gerbner, 1998).
Therefore, it seems logical to incorporate media consumption into the
analysis of factors related to citizens attitudes toward same-sex marriage.
Surprisingly, little research exists on this topic. One notable exception is a
study by Hester and Gibson (2007). They analyzed media coverage of samesex marriage nationally and in Atlanta and Chicago, and sought possible
connection between the amount of media coverage and public salience.
They concluded that local media have a stronger agenda-setting effect than
national media when the issue is both local and national. While their findings
are important and insightful, their study did not directly address the basic
question of the present studywhether media consumption is related to
attitudes toward same-sex marriage and, if yes, which media types might
have an effect.

Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Media Effects

Even though the word effect in many quantitative media studies actually
means correlation or association between factors (e.g., Hicks & Lee, 2006;
Lee, 2005b), causal effects have been established in a few of them, mainly
in experimental research (e.g., Iyengar & Hahn, 2009; Iyengar & Kinder,
1987). Overall, these scholars are interested in a direct and quantitatively
measurable relationship between the consumption of certain media and an
attitude or behavior.
By contrast, qualitative researchers seem to see the concept of media
effect very differently. For instance, Schudson (1989) argued that whether
there is a direct influence of cultural objects, such as media messages, is a
naive question because there are no simple answers. That is because such
influence depends on the individual, time, and situationbasically a broader
context than what empirical or quantitative researchers prefer. This helps

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T.-T. Lee and G. R. Hicks

explain why qualitative scholars ask different questions. They seem to be

more interested in how media texts function as part of a cultural environment
that shapes peoples long-term formation of attitudes or behavior.
Qualitative studies have paid critical attention to media portrayals of
lesbians and gay men in the past several decades (Gross, 1994; Kellner, 1994;
ONeill, 1984). Many have focused on medias role in helping to create both
self-awareness among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
community and a holistic understanding of how media shape public attitudes
toward homosexuality. Of particular interest to critical scholars have been
examinations of gays and lesbians in cinema portrayals (Russo, 1981), news
coverage (Alwood, 1996), and advertising (Hicks, 2003), with scant attention
paid to cross-media concerns. Some of these works were historical in nature
(Russo, 1981), while others examined the role that media have played in
their own lives as lesbians and gay men (Monette, 1992).

Medium Versus Media Effects

In an era of increasing media convergence, it seems odd that scholarship
of media representation has been so clearly and purposefully compartmentalized. Even very recent studies on media portrayals of same-sex marriage
have focused their attention on a specific medium or two, such as news
stories and photographs of gay families (Landau, 2009). Why is this? One
simple explanation is that the relationship between media usage and attitudes is extraordinarily complex even when addressing only one medium
and the scope of any one study can extend only so far. A more sophisticated explanationone grounded in theoryis necessary to understand
the findings of this study as well as direct future research. One reason that
has been posited is that new technological advances in communication are
more compatible with reaching and influencing smaller niche audiences for
whom the value of assimilating values with a broader community may not
be of upmost importance (Piore, 1997).
Recent research has argued that it is important to specify which media
or medium when media effects are studied (Lee, 2005b). Todays media environment includes magazines, newspapers, network radio programs, and a
cable network all dedicated to the lesbian and gay audience. Earlier work
by Postman (1985) and Tuchman (1978) used, respectively, technological
determinism and culture lag theories as ways of understanding the limitations that technology (particularly television) has in the creation of realistic
portrayals of social issues. An argument can be made that todays media
(again, particularly television) present a skewed and unrealistic portrayal of
the realities of same-sex marriage. Therefore, an examination of whether
and how the use of various media affects audiences attitudes toward this
issue is in order.

Same-Sex Marriage


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Media Effects in a Unique Context

This study also offers a unique opportunity to quantitatively examine media
effects in a qualitative context, namely the power of culture. Schudson (1989)
argued that, depending on the context or object itself, a cultural object
might have a very large impact on a very few people (p. 175), or could
have a very small impact on a great many people (p. 176). Many people
already have a strong opinion about same-sex marriage. It is possible that
their attitudes about this issue are shaped by the media they consume. For
example, frequent viewing of Modern Family or the Ellen DeGeneres Show
might contribute to a more accepting attitude toward same-sex unions. It
is also possible that which medium audience members choose to consume
is at least somewhat affected by their attitudes. For instance, viewers who
oppose gay-marriage are more likely to watch Fox News and the Christian
Broadcasting Network. Therefore, the present authors expect a statistically
significant correlation between their usage of various media and their opinion on same-sex marriage. We are curious about which medium would be
determinants of such attitudes.
Conceptually, what is more interesting to us is the strength of such
correlations. Apparently many people either strongly support or oppose
gay marriage. Therefore, a logical argument is that, if the media have any
effect (or more accurately, correlation) on the audiences attitudes on this
issue, it should be small. That is because the influence of their own cultural
context (in terms of their religious, ideological, or other relevant views)
probably outweighs the effect of the media. In other words, it is reasonable to suspect that the media would have a small impact on many people
in this case. Also, the strength of the influence of various media would


Based on the literature view and theoretical reasoning above, the following
hypotheses and research questions were generated.
H1: Citizens liberal ideology is positively associated with their attitudes
toward same-sex marriage.
H2: Citizens sex (being female) is positively associated with their attitudes
toward same-sex marriage.
H3: Citizens race (being white) is positively associated with their attitudes
toward same-sex marriage.
RQ1: Are psychographic or lifestyle factors associated with citizens attitudes toward same-sex marriage?


T.-T. Lee and G. R. Hicks

RQ2: Does the use of certain mass media associate with citizens attitudes
toward same-sex marriage?
RQ3: Does media consumption have a strong or weak association with
citizens attitudes toward same-sex marriage?

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This study used the 2006 version of the DDB Worldwide Communications
Groups Life StyleTM study. DDB Worldwide Communications Group is a
global advertising and marketing services agency. They have been conducting an annual Life StyleTM survey since 1975. Because of the proprietary and
commercially sensitive nature of this survey, this agency provides only older
and partial data (excluding information on products and brands) for academic research. The present authors are solely responsible for the analysis
and interpretation of the data in this study.
The 2006 data set contains 683 variables and 5,188 cases. The agency
collected data through a research firm using a quota sample from a national
panel of American adult consumers. Because the 2006 survey was conducted
online, and the poll closed once a quota was reached, the agency was not
able to calculate a response rate. In the past, when the survey was collected
by mail, its response rate was between 70 and 80% (Cafferata, Horn, & Wells,
1997). A number of studies using DDB Worldwide Communications Groups
Life StyleTM survey data are published in reputable journals (e.g., DuttaBergman & Wells, 2002; Friedland et al., 2007; Lee, 2005a; Shah, Kwak, &
Holbert, 2001). Putnams (2000) influential book, Bowling Alone, which
described in part the influence of media in the decline of collective social
activities, used this series of survey along with the highly respected General
Social Survey, and suggested that their quality is comparable. Additionally, a
textbook on consumer behavior by Hawkins and Mothersbaugh (2009) used
the same series of data as well. These examples support the validity and
reliability of the Life StyleTM data.
The 2006 sample consists of 2,629 men (49.5%) and 2,679 women
(50.5%), with a mean age of 44.49 (SD = 16.71; median = 43; range =
17100). A total of 70.6% of the weighed sample is White (N = 3,747),
9.8% is Black (N = 518), 2.9% is Asian (N = 156), 11.7% is Hispanic
(N = 623). The remaining are other (N = 156, 2.9%) or prefer not to
answer (N = 109, 2.1%). The data came with a weight variable to slightly
adjust sex, race and age. The present authors chose to run the data in an
unweighed manner.
Many variables are measured by a 16-point scale from I definitely
disagree to I definitely agree. The dependent variable of this study was a
16 point scale of I am in favor of legalizing same sex marriages. A higher
number indicated a higher level of support (M = 3.11, SD = 1.98).

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Same-Sex Marriage


The chosen statistical procedure was hierarchical multiple regression.

Variables were entered in blocks. Demographic variables (age, sex, race,
education, and income) were entered in the first block using a regular enter
procedure. Age is the exact age of respondents. Race was a dummy variable
of being White (White = 1, non-White = 0), and sex is a dummy variable
of being male (male = 1, female = 0). Household income was measured
by a scale with 10 categories (1 = under $20,000; 10 = $150,000 or more;
M = 5.5, SD = 3.13). Education was measured by a scale with 5 categories
(1 = less than high school, 5 = attended post-graduate school; M = 3.43,
SD = 1.09).
The second block included five variables: religiosity, gender equality,
racial equality, political interest, and political ideology. Religiosity was an
additive index of three 16-point scales (M = 13.19, SD = 4.39): Religion
is an important part of my life, I believe in God, and I believe in the
existence of the Devil. The Cronbachs alpha of these three items was .84.
The additive scale of gender equality (M = 12.26, SD = 3.64) was the summation of three reversed-coded 16-point items: Men are naturally better
leaders than women, The father should be the boss in the house, and
The best way of life is a marriage where the husband works while the
wife stays home and takes care of the house and kids. The Cronbachs
alpha was .71. The racial equality scale (M = 8.15, SD = 2.45) was the
summation of two items ( = .67; r = .50, p < .001): I think its OK for a
person to marry someone of a different race, and I would prefer to live in
a racially integrated neighborhood. Political interest (M = 3.8, SD = 1.54)
is a 16-point scale: I am interested in politics. Political ideology was a
17-point scale from extremely conservative to extremely liberal (M = 3.76,
SD = 1.53).
The third block consisted of five psychographic and lifestyle variables.
All of them were measured on a 16-point scale from I definitely disagree to
I definitely agree. The inclusion of these variables was informed by studies
on how liberals and conservative differ (e.g., Fleming, 2006; Jost, Nosek, &
Gosling, 2008; Lee & Brott, 2009). The five variables were My days seem to
follow a definite routine (M = 4.09, SD = 1.18); I am the kind of person
who would try anything once (M = 3.81, SD = 1.29); I have somewhat
old-fashioned tastes and habits (M = 4.13, SD = 1.18); I am interested in
the cultures of other countries (M = 4.23, SD = 1.29); and I would feel
lost if I were alone in a foreign country (M = 3.6, SD = 1.54). Both a factor
analysis and reliability test indicated that these items should not be added
up to a single-item index. Therefore, they remained individual variables in
the analysis.
All items from the above three blocks were entered in a regular enter
procedure. However, because of the large number of media related variables in the survey, these more than 20 variables were entered in a stepwise
way, meaning the computer determined which items should remain in the

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T.-T. Lee and G. R. Hicks

equation due to statistical significance. The media variables include newspapers, various types of television and radio programs, magazines, and reasons
for using the Internet. In terms of television, a series of items beginning with
Please indicate how much you like each of the following types of television
shows, which are measured by a 3-point scale (1 = do not like, 2 = like a
little, and 3 = like a lot). Significant items include religious programming
(M = 1.48, SD = .67) and political talk shows (M = 1.62, SD = .71). The
only significant item on the Internet was about how often in the past 12
months (1 = never, 8 = more than once a day) respondents read a weblog
or blog (M = 2.06, SD = 1.72). The other two variables that survived the
stepwise procedure were two 16-point scales: Television is my primary
form of entertainment (M = 3.59, SD = 1.39) and Magazines are more
interesting than television (M = 3.03, SD = 1.27). Finally, because of the
large sample size of this survey, statistical significance was set at the p < .001

As shown in the first model in Table 1, when only demographic variables
are considered, only age, sex, and education are significant predictors of
attitudes toward same-sex marriage. Those who are younger ( = .22),
more educated ( = .15), and female ( = .11) are more likely to be in
favor of this practice. When more control variables are gradually entered
(see Model 2), respondents who are more liberal ( = .29), less religious
( = .27), supporters of racial equality ( = .25), supporters of gender equality ( = .14), younger ( = .11), more interested in politics
( = .06), female ( = .05), and White ( = .04) tend to support same-sex
Model 3 incorporated a number of lifestyle and activity variables.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are more likely to be:

more liberal ( = .27);

less religious ( = .27);
supporting racial equality ( = .23);
for gender equality ( = .14);
the kind of person who would try anything once ( = .09);
younger ( = .08);
interested in politics ( = .05);
feeling lost if were alone in a foreign country ( = .05);
female ( = .05);
White ( = .04); and
interested in the cultures of other countries ( = .04).


Same-Sex Marriage

TABLE 1 Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Support for
Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage (N = 5,188)

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Block 1
Block 2
Gender equality
Racial equality
Political interest
Liberal ideology
Block 3
Follow a routine
Try anything once
Old fashioned
Interested in other cultures
Feel lost alone in a foreign country
Block 4
Religious TV
TV is primary form of entertainment
Read a web blog
Magazines more interesting than TV
TV political talk shows
Public radio
Talk radio
TV news
Need to get the news everyday
R square
Notes. p < .05;

< .01;

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

Model 4














< .001.

The curious finding is feeling lost if in a foreign country because one would
expect a same-sex marriage supporter to be more adventurous. Indeed, as
reported above, same-sex marriage supporters are interested in the cultures
of other countries. However, this variable on feeling lost in a foreign country
becomes statistically insignificant in the next model once media variables
were introduced into the equation.
According to the fourth and final model in Table 1, the strongest predictor of a positive attitude toward same-sex marriage is a self-identified liberal
ideology, followed by religiosity, racial attitudes, attitudes toward gender
roles, the willingness to try anything once, television viewing, age, reading
web blogs, attitudes toward reading magazines, and ones sex.


T.-T. Lee and G. R. Hicks

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Specifically, respondents are more likely to be in favor of legalizing

same-sex marriage if they:

are more liberal ( = .25);

are less religious ( = .23);
support racial equality ( = .23);
believe in gender equality ( = .14);
dislike religious television programs ( = .09);
are willing to try anything once ( = .07);
consider television their primary form of entertainment ( = .07);
like to watch political talk shows on television ( = .06);
are younger ( = .06);
like to read weblogs ( = .05);
think magazines are more interesting than television ( = .05); and
are female ( = .05).

In addition to being younger, liberal, less religious, equality-minded, and

more adventurous, apparently ones love of television viewing and reading
(magazines and blogs) would contribute to a more open mindset in terms
of supporting same-sex marriages.
Hypotheses 13 predict that ideology, sex, and race are associated with
attitudes toward same-sex marriage. Specifically, they posit that same-sex
marriage supporters are more likely to be liberal, female, and White. All
three hypotheses are supported by present data.
Research Question 1 asks whether psychographic or lifestyle factors are
associated with ones support for same-sex marriage. The answer is ones
willingness to try anything once is a positive predictor for legalizing samesex marriage. The second research question deals with whether or not media
consumption is related to support for same-sex marriage. Media consumers
positive attitudes toward same-sex marriage are positively related to ones
disliking of religious programming on television, liking political talk shows
on television, using television as a primary form of entertainment, reading a
blog often, and stating that magazines are more interesting than television.
A comparison between the R squares of Model 3 and Model 4 indicates
that adding media variables into the equation did not improve the model
muchonly 2% more of the variance. An interpretation is that, after controlling other variables (Blocks 13), media consumption in general matters
little in terms of audiences attitudes toward same-sex marriage. In addition,
among the handful of media with a significant correlation (p < .001), their
effects are small (the absolute value ranged from .05 to .09).
To closely examine the effects of media, we ran another regression
analysis with only the media variables from the fourth model in Table 1. Data
in Table 2 revealed that, with no demographic or other control variables,


Same-Sex Marriage
TABLE 2 Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analysis for
Media Variables Predicting Support for Legalizing Same-Sex
Marriage (N = 5,188)

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Religious TV
TV is primary form of entertainment
Read a web blog
Magazines more interesting than TV
TV political talk shows
Public radio
Talk radio
TV news
Need to get the news everyday
R square
Notes. p < .05;

< .01;


< .001.

ones support for legalizing same-sex marriage is associated with reading

web blogs ( = .18), disliking religious television ( = .17), liking public
radio ( = .17), not liking talk radio ( = .14), considering television as
a primary form of entertainment ( = .08), but not liking televised news
( = .07). The R square of this model is .11, which is much smaller than
those of the models with control variables in Table 1. This set of findings
answers the third research question. Only a few media are associated with
audiences attitudes toward same-sex marriage, and their effects are small.
Other factors including citizens religious views, political ideologies, and
attitudes toward racial equality have a much stronger association with their
position on same-sex marriage.


Summary and Interpretation of Findings
The present study confirms previous research that supporters of same-sex
marriage tend to be liberal, less religious, female, White, and believers in
gender and racial equality. In addition, new knowledge has been generated
in this study. Supporters of same-sex marriage tend to be adventurous and
willing to try new things, and are interested in politics and the cultures of
other countries. More importantly, we now have a better understanding of
their media habits. They like to watch television in general, and political talk
shows in particular, but are turned off by religious television programs. In
addition, they enjoy reading magazines and web blogs.
The presence of gay and lesbian figures on television is much more
common than only a decade ago. It is no wonder that those who enjoy
watching television are more approving of same-sex marriage. These

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T.-T. Lee and G. R. Hicks

supporters probably do not watch television mindlessly and indiscriminately.

They are interested in politics, and consequently enjoy watching political talk
shows on television. In addition to watching television, they actually think
that magazines are more interesting than television, and like to read web
The fact that same-sex marriage supporters are more likely to try anything once suggests that they are open to things and ideas that they are not
familiar with. Therefore, it is no coincidence that they are interested in the
cultures of other countries.
All these characteristics above fit those of self-identified liberals.
According to studies by Altemeyer (1996), Fleming (2006) and Lakoff (2002),
conservatives prefer traditions and old ways of doing things. It is, thus, no
surprise that they disapprove of same-sex marriage, which did not exist in
the history of the United States. On the other hand, as suggested by Jost and
his colleges (Amodio, Jost, Master, & Yee, 2007; Jost, 2006; Jost, Banaji, &
Nosek, 2004; Jost & Hunyady, 2005; Jost, Nosek, & Gosling, 2008) as well as
Lee and Brott (2009), liberals tend to have a stronger sense of adventure and
are more receptive to new and different things. Therefore, they are open to
a new form of marriage between partners of the same sex.

Limitations and Future Research

The strength of the present study is also its weakness. It would be extremely
expensive and time consuming to conduct a survey with a large national
sample comparable to the DDB Worldwide Communications Groups Life
StyleTM survey. Therefore, having a nationally representative sample of
more than 5,000 adult consumers is invaluable to survey researchers.
However, using secondary data means we could not ask more questions
on additional dimensions related to same-sex marriage, such as civil unions
and the right to adopt children. This being a consumer data set generated for an advertising and marketing agency, it is understandable that
there is no variable on respondents partisan affiliation. Therefore, we
could not factor in Republican-Independent-Democratic partisanship in our
Some scholars argued that liberal-conservative ideologies should not
be measured on a one-dimensional continuum. Alternative measures have
been attempted in a number of studies (e.g., Altemeyer, 1996; Lakoff, 2002;
Lee & Brott, 2009; Maddox & Lilie, 1984). However, because it is not the
focus of this study, and, because there is only one available measure in the
survey data, we chose to use this self-identified measure in our study. This
is a weakness we should acknowledge. Another limitation is the distribution of races in our data. We chose to use unweighed data, which could
have slightly affected the outcome because there is an overrepresentation of
Whites (87.1%) and under representation of other races (Blacks = 4.5%,

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Same-Sex Marriage


Asians = 2.7%, and Hispanics = 2.2%). Future studies, especially those

focusing on the effects of race, should make necessary adjustments.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the large number of independent variables in our regression analysis. That is why after Model 3 in
Table 1 we decided to use stepwise regression while entering media related
variables even though quantitative researchers tend to frown upon the stepwise procedure, saying it is not theory driven. In fact, that is another reason
why we used stepwise. We found no theoretical basis in literature about
which media variables should be entered first or later.
Even though we chose p < .001 as our statistical significance cut-off
point, some readers might be tempted to look at the remaining media variables in Model 4 in Table 1. The reason supporters of same-sex marriage
like public radio is probably due to its diverse programming. At the same
time, they do not like political talk radio probably because of its conservative leaning. What is curious is why they tend not to like television news. We
need to caution our readers not to read too much into the data in Table 2
because there is no control variable in this model. Nevertheless, the diversity in the programming of pubic radio, and the political leaning of religious
television and talk radio, probably explain the statistics in Table 2.
For future research, we recommend conducting a survey that includes
all the commonly used variables (e.g., age, sex, education, ideology, and
party affiliation), psychographic and lifestyle items, and variables on media
usage. The new survey should also examine issues related to same-sex
marriage, such as the nature of homosexuality (innate or choice), various
rights related to same-sex couples (e.g., adopting children, protection against
employment discrimination, and civil unions), and attitudes toward homosexual marriage (Brewer & Wilcox, 2005; Brumbaugh et al., 2008; Hicks &
Lee, 2006; Poll, 2008). More importantly, it should directly ask the respondents about their sources of information about same-sex marriage, and
which media might have shaped their opinion about this issue.

Despite these limitations, we believe our study has made some meaningful
contributions. One is the fact that our larger and national data confirmed
the findings of previous studies (that used a smaller or regional sample).
Demographic and psychographic variables such as sex, race and religion
can shape ones attitudes toward same-sex marriage.
Also, as argued earlier, this study used quantitative data to investigate
a qualitative question, which is whether a broader context of culture potentially has more influencethan the media they consumeon their attitudes
toward same-sex marriage. This is a theoretical as well as methodological
contribution of our study. Our findings suggest that who people arein
terms of age, sex, religious and political views, and lifestyle factorsis more

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T.-T. Lee and G. R. Hicks

influential than the media they consume. In fact, we can even argue that
their media choices are likely affected by their personal attributes. Therefore,
quantitative scholars who study media effects are urged to consider a variety,
or layers, of context. Having a few control variables in a statistical analysis
is certainly helpful. However, a broader cultural context, which may or may
not be quantifiable, needs to be taken into consideration.
We happened to pick a significant cultural issue, same-sex marriage,
to test media effects. The effects are minimal in our case because peoples
strong feelings about this particular issue probably overshadow the influence of the media they use. Studies that examine the effects of media on
other issues, such as the sense of privacy or global warming, might produce
weaker effects or associations. Such differences illustrate the point made by
cultural scholars such as Schudson (1989) that the issue of media effects
needs to be investigated in a more intricate and less direct way.
Another contribution this study has made is that it, at least indirectly,
challenges the consensus among critical/cultural studies that the mass media
in general, and television in particular, tend to be conservative and oppressive because they reinforce the political status quo, oppress members of
minorities (including lesbians and gay men) and women, and ultimately
promote hegemony (Altschull, 1995; Entman & Rojecki, 2000; Gitlin, 1980;
Gross, 2001; Gross & Woods, 1999; Lin, 1997; Ringer, 1994). We understand
it is probably unfair to make this very broad generalization about those
studies. However, we believe those studies share a somewhat negative view
toward the media in general. In the case of same-sex marriage, our data
show that television and blog viewing is associated with a progressive attitude. Therefore, future studies are urged to explore whether television and
other mass media can be used to promote socially progressive agendas.
Advocates for same-sex marriage might find our findings useful. They
may be able to solicit potential supporters by using the right kind of mass
media. Options include advertising on political talk shows on television
as well as magazines that are popular among those who are interested in
politics. Their ads can also direct their potential supporters to web blogs.

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