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Do a majority of Americans support marriage equality?

Timothy Kincaid

September 17th, 2010

Last month the New York Times reported that there were 17 states in which a majority of residents favored marriage equality. I dismissed it as wishful thinking. But today there is an AP poll out with numbers that are even more fantastical and which suggests that support for equality is increasing at an unexpected rate.

NCC10. Should couples of the same sex be entitled to the same government benefits as married couples of the opposite sex, or should the government distinguish between them?

58% – Yes, should be entitled to the same benefits
38% – No, should distinguish between them
3% – Don’t know
1% – Refused

NCC12. Should the Federal Government give legal recognition to marriages between couples of the same sex, or not?

52% – Yes
46% – No
2% – Don’t know

Additionally, there were a couple questions and responses which suggests that anti-gay complaints about “activist judges” may not be an effective strategy.

NCC4. And how about these, which do you agree with more?

35% – If a majority of people want something to happen, the rights of a few shouldn’t stand in the way
62% – The rights of everyone should be protected, even when that means saying no to something the majority of people want to happen.
2% – Don’t know
1% – Refused

NCC18. Which comes closest to your view?

41% – Judges should interpret the laws as narrowly as possible, taking into account only what is
clearly the intention of the lawmakers
56% – Judges should interpret laws broadly, taking into account the broader interests of the
3% – Don’t know

This was based on a telephone survey (land and cell) of 1,007 participants around the third week of August and has a sampling margin of +/-4.5%. This was a survey of the populace, not of voters.

I still have difficulty in claiming that more than half of Americans support marriage equality. However, even if this poll is an outlier or an anomaly, the days are gone when anti-gays can claim that “the vast majority of Americans” oppose recognition of gay couples.



K in VA
September 17th, 2010 | LINK

Gosh, with gay-positive numbers like that, the Democrats might think about repealing DOMA in another twenty years or so (unless one Republican says “boo,” in which the Democrats would wait at least another decade).

September 17th, 2010 | LINK

One has to look at all the polling as an agglomerate, since wording makes a huge difference and outliers exist. Other polling recently showed 52% in favor of marriage equality when it was worded a particular way.

At this point, I’m convinced that support for marriage equality nationally has at least risen into the mid to upper 40’s, if not around 50%.

Other Fred in the UK
September 17th, 2010 | LINK

I am not sure how much weight I would give to NCC 4 and NCC18. People may generally hold those abstract opinions, but not necessarily stick by them when it comes to the much more practical question of same-sex marriage.

September 17th, 2010 | LINK

However, even if this poll is an outlier or an anomaly, the days are gone when anti-gays can claim that “the vast majority of Americans” oppose recognition of gay couples.

Except they can quite legitimately point out, and in fact do, that a majority of voters in 31 states opposing legal SSM trumps a phone poll. I’ve seen how polls can be manipulated to fool people regardless of the viewpoint and do not believe the results of this one are worth anything. Perhaps if we could chip away somoe of those 31 states through their legislatures or at the ballot box than I might believe a shift is taking place. Until then I don’t and believe this generation needs to die out, which unfortunately includes me to I suppose.

September 17th, 2010 | LINK

Keep in mind that someone who supports “all but the name” civil unions could legitimately answer “yes” to NCC10. The wording doesn’t imply support for complete marriage equality. To that extent, the 38% “no” might represent a backslide.

September 17th, 2010 | LINK

The “marriage” question specifically asks about the federal government giving recognition to same-sex marriages. I’d like to see a more direct question such as “Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry?” (although the questions as asked is certainly relevant to DOMA.)

Having said that, I think this is the third, very recent poll in which a slight majority responded favorably to questions that addressed marriage equality. One asked if respondents thought that there should be a constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry. The results were 52% in favor and 46% opposed – the same as the AP results. In the third poll, the question simply asked about same-sex marriage, and the results were 52% in favor and 48% opposed.

The percent of Americans in favor of marriage equality has been increasing for years, even decades. But just before the Prop 8 trial, it was still a large _minority_ in most polls. If it’s now a majority, that’s very encouraging.

The results for equal benefits are encouraging as well. Support for “the same benefits” is high, and only a minority want so much as a distinction between same-sex couples’ and opposite-sex married couples’ benefits. That to me is a stronger statement than just “Same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions.”

Most media have been too timid to forthrightly report these consistently positive AP results. Sites like have been unclear about the last two questions, preferring to appear unbiased rather than actually be unbiased – and they should be taken to task. Kudos to Timothy for actually showing the items and their results, instead of just summarizing as other sites have done.

Thorne Cassidy
September 19th, 2010 | LINK

Perhaps, also overlooked is the very design of our system that works against progressives: conservative, and relatively empty states like Wyoming and Kansas get just as many senators as California and New York–in addition to rounding up for representatives in congress. So, in addition to these numbers being a little too favorable to believe, our allies are concentrated in these more populated, generally coastal areas with less representation and–alas, zeal to storm the polls in November.

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