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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The American Gaze at the American Gays: Interest Groups, Media, and the Elite Opinions’ Impact on Public Opinion


In a recent wave of events, President Obama had announced his open acceptance and support of gay marriage in America; many celebrities have endorsed and said “It Gets Better”, to help with gay teenagers – and the majority of America stands behind them. But the trend towards an acceptance of gays has been established way before Obama, Lady Gaga, or “It Gets Better” Campaign. In this study, I seek the answer to the puzzling question of, “what made the public opinion change regarding the gay population?” After looking at public opinion trend, I seek the answer through some quantitative ways: through the political interest groups’ financial and media data; seeking media infiltration of “gay” in the news and TV shows; and lastly, the elite’s opinion through the channels of Supreme Court of the United States, State of the Union Address, and Presidential Campaign platforms of each parties. My data analysis goes back through roughly last thirty-five years (from 1977 to the present) of what “gay” is, and how it changed in the eyes of the American public. As none of the previous literature does a comprehensive look at all three factors as the change in attitude towards “the gays”, I discover that there is a general pattern, as there are more influences in the interest groups, the media, and the elites’ opinion, the public opinion in America went up, seemingly the former leading the latter; however, that pattern is not always so true – in fact, public opinion may lead elite opinion or media exposure.

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