The S-Curve of Cultural Change

s-curveIndeed, we can measure and model cultural change the same way we measure and model economic trends. As data science develops further, we’ll continue to test and rethink the limits of quantifiability. This is neither good nor bad. It is inevitable.


Many observers have been struck by how quickly public opinion has shifted on homosexuality in the United States. A quarter-century ago, about 12 percent of Americans agreed that “homosexual couples should have the right to marry one another.” And only a decade ago, Americans opposed gay marriage by healthy 20-25 point margin. Now, most Americans support it.[1] Politically, what was once an easy winning issue for the GOP is increasingly becoming a drag on the party’s candidates.

The pattern of change on the wider question of homosexuality has also been striking. In the mid-1970s, about 70 percent of Americans told pollsters that “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” were “always wrong.” In the 2010s only 46 percent did.[2] Note this, however: Americans’ views of homosexuality changed little for the first half of those years; indeed the percent who damned gay relations grew a bit. Then, in the…

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