America has pretty much chilled out about gay marriage. That, at least, is what our Google searches seem to say.
The folks at Google’s NewsLab gave us the most popular gay marriage-related search terms in the country, going back to 2004. They offer a fascinating window into the evolution of American attitudes toward same-sex marriage.
In the mid-2000s, people were mostly searching for arguments against gay marriage. That pattern held until 2008, the year that California voters passed Proposition 8, which repealed the right of same-sex marriage in that state. After that, people became more likely to search for neutral terms, like “gay marriage states” — presumably looking for information on which states allowed or didn’t allow same-sex marriage.
Finally, in 2013 the term “marriage equality” topped the searches for the first time. That’s been the top term this year so far as well. These search terms highlight the striking shift in public opinion on the issue — from “against gay marriage” to “marriage equality” in just six years.
You might expect a general move from negative to positive sentiment, tracking with public opinion polls over the same time frame. But interestingly, the shift is more toward no particular sentiment at all.
For instance, the top search in Missouri in 2004 was “how to contact supporters of amendment to ban gay marriage.” But by 2015, the most popular search was “is gay marriage legal in Missouri?”
Similarly, Ohio moved from “are gay marriages wrong” to “is gay marriage legal in Ohio?” New Jersey went from “find reasons why gay marriages are not good” to “is gay marriage legal in nj?” Etc. etc.
On the other hand, with the exception of Kentucky (“reasons why same sex marriage should be legal”), searches today aren’t particularly pro-gay marriage either. If the gay marriage fight is over, there’s no need to dig up ammunition for your side.
Nearly across the board, the most common gay marriage searches today are prosaic factual inquiries. “How many states allow gay marriage” (New York). “What countries legalize gay marriage” (New Hampshire). “Is gay marriage legal in (insert state here).”