If you took any random nine Americans matching the demographics of the Supreme Court, would they support making gay marriage legal?
Granted, that's not the question before the Court in either of the gay marriage cases it's considering. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court heard arguments Tuesday regarding the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8. In United States v. Windsor, which the justices will hear Wednesday, it's deciding the same about the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. And, granted, a group of nine highly educated, wealthy residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area are hardly representative of the broader population. Besides, they're pretty old.
Regardless, let's speculate. Last week, the Washington Post and ABC released a poll that broke down gay marriage support by various demographics. We took that data, compared it to the Supreme Court, and determined the odds that a similar group of people would support gay marriage legalization.
Women are substantially more likely to support gay marriage than men. But the low number of women on the bench means that it's the opinion of the men that carries more weight.
Calculated likelihood of support for legalization: 56.33 percent.
The general perception of the Supreme Court is that it is heavily populated by elderly people. There's some truth to that. But the Court is younger than you might think — younger, for example, than the Rolling Stones, on average. That helps offset the higher rate of opposition among the Court's older justices, but not enough to get over 50 percent.
Calculated likelihood of support for legalization: 48.89 percent.
Based on history and data we reported Monday, there's a fairly even ideological split on the bench. Four conservatives, four liberals, and Justice Kennedy. While conservatives are far more likely to oppose legalization, both moderates and liberals are very likely to support it.
Calculated likelihood of support for legalization: 55.44 percent.
Members of the Supreme Court get about $213,000 a year, not counting the various benefits and perks, the book sales and the speaking fees. (Not to mention job security.) Interestingly, of these demographics, support for gay marriage is highest among high wage earners, which may correlate to education.
Calculated likelihood of support for legalization: 65 percent.
One-third of the Supreme Court is Jewish. One-third of America is not. Which means that the Post-ABC poll doesn't have data on levels of support for gay marriage in the Jewish community — there just weren't enough in the sample to be representative.
Calculated likelihood of support for legalization: unknown.
As mentioned earlier, more education translates into more support for gay marriage. Since each justice has a law degree (as one might hope), they all fall squarely into one of the most supportive groups in the survey.
Calculated likelihood of support for legalization: 69 percent.
In other words, in every scenario beyond one in which a majority of the nine people were over 65, a group with the Court's demographics would be more likely than not to support the legalization of gay marriage. Only slightly, though — the margin wavers somewhere in the mid-50s.
Almost as though you had four liberals, four conservatives, and one guy still making up his mind.