Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 1-14

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The “Persuadable Middle” on Same-Sex Marriage: Formative Research to Build Support among Heterosexual College Students

  • Michael R. WoodfordAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, University of Michigan Email author 
  • , Jill ChonodyAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia
  • , Kristin ScherrerAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • , Perry SilverschanzAffiliated withSchool of Social Work & Department of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • , Alex KulickAffiliated withWomen’s Studies, University of Michigan


Same-sex marriage is a controversial policy issue that affects the welfare of gay and lesbian couples throughout the USA. Considerable research examines opinions about same-sex marriage; however, studies have not investigated the covariates of the “persuadable middle”—those individuals who are neutral or unsure about their views. This group of people is often the target of same-sex marriage campaigns, yet they have received no empirical attention. Using a sample of heterosexual college students, we conduct multinomial logistic regression to identify the factors associated with being neutral about same-sex marriage. Findings suggest that in comparison with those who endorse or oppose same-sex marriage, political ideology and views about the acceptability of same-sex relationships are influential in determining the “persuadable middle.” Within each category other factors are identified. We discuss the implications for policy advocacy efforts to advance marriage equality.


Same-sex marriage Gay Lesbian Legal rights Heterosexism College students