Positive trend, deep conflict and major ambivalence reflected in opinion poll on marriage

by on September 17, 2011  •  In Marriage, People

The most recent opinion poll on relationship and marriage rights for same-sex couples illustrates what a cat's cradle this issue is right now. Associated Press, which co-sponsored the poll with the National Constitution Center, reports that 

  • 53% favor relationship recognition with equal rights; 44% oppose
  • 42% favor states allowing same-sex marriage; 45% oppose
  • 48% favor a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; 40% oppose

A CNN poll in April found that 51% of the public answered yes to the question: "Do you think marriages between gay and lesbian couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?" Three years ago, the figure was 44%.

The AP report also found:

Most Americans who live in states where gay marriage is not already legal say it is unlikely their state will pass such a law; just 20 percent think it is likely to become law in their state…

Americans also are conflicted on how to go about legalizing or outlawing gay marriage. …About half of the poll's respondents, 48 percent, said they would favor [a constitutional] amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Most who feel this way do so intensely. About 40 percent would strongly favor such a change. Forty-three percent said they would oppose such an amendment, and 8 percent were neutral, according to the poll.

Most – 55 percent – believe the issue should be handled at the state level, however, and opinions on how states should act are split. People are about evenly divided on whether their states should allow same-sex marriages – 42 percent favor that and 45 percent are opposed – and tilt in favor of state laws that allow gay couples to form civil unions – 47 percent in favor, 38 percent opposed and 13 percent neutral, according to the poll.

Nearly 6 in 10 (57 percent) in the poll … said same-sex couples should be entitled to the same legal benefits as married couples of the opposite sex. Forty percent felt the government should distinguish between them.

The poll … suggests that opponents of same-sex marriage were far more apt to say that the issue is one of deep importance to them. Forty-four percent of those polled called it extremely or very important for them personally. Among those who favor legal marriage for gay couples, 32 percent viewed the issue as that important.

ADDITION – Today's N Y Times describes a poll mostly concerned with national political issues that also contains a deeply buried question (# 89 on page 23) about relationship recognition. It found that

  • 38% support the right to marry
  • 27% support civil unions but not marriage
  • 28% oppose any legal recognition

The accompanying article states that just under 60% of Republicans fall into the first two categories. (The party identification for this question isn't in the poll document itself.)

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