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Religious Tolerance logo

Single polls about same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions

From 2006-MAY to 2011: Support, opposition,
inevitability, and whether SSM is a civil right.

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On this web site, "SSM" is an acronym for Same-Sex Marriage.
"LGBT" is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual.

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2006-MAY-08: A Gallup Organization poll:

Gallup conducted a poll among 1,002 American adults from 2006-MAY-08 to 11. The margin of error is about ~+mn~3 percentage points. Results were:

bulletOn extending marriage to include homosexual couples:

bullet 58% are opposed.

bullet 39% are in favor

bullet 3% are undecided or did not respond.
bullet Gallup asked a more precise question in addition to the above. They substituted "same-sex couples" for "homosexuals". Opposition dropped from 58% to 56%. That is probably because "homosexual" is a snarl word within some people. Also, since same-sex couples includes bisexuals, opinion may differ.

bullet Other data:
bullet Among Republicans, 66% favor the Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (FMA) and 79% oppose "gay marriage."

bullet Among Democrats, 55% oppose the FMA and 53% support "gay marriage."
bullet Among women ages 18 to 49, 55% favor "gay marriage."

bullet Among women aged 50 and older, 62% oppose it.
bullet Among men 18 to 49, 67% oppose it.

bullet Among men aged 50 and older, 64% oppose it. This is the first time we have seen a decrease in opposition with age.
bullet Among adults who attend religious services weekly, 77% oppose "gay marriage."

bullet Among adults who seldom or never attend services, 51% favor it. 1,2

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2006-MAR: Poll by Angus Reid Global Scan:

This poll was taken among adults in California. The found that a substantial majority of California residents favored legal registration of loving, committed, same-sex relationships, by half disapproved of allowing same-sex couples to marry.

When asked whether the state should recognize same-sex relationships, or merely consider them as roommates, their response was spit in a three-way tie:

bullet 32% felt that they should be allowed to marry.
bullet 32% felt that they should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships, but not be allowed to marry.
bullet 32% felt that their relationships should not be legally recognized at all.
bullet 4% were unsure or did not respond.

This is a nightmare scenario for any politician: three options with identical support.

When allowed only the choice between two alternatives, the results were:

bullet 51% oppose the availability of same-sex marriage.

bullet 43% favor the availability of same-sex marriage.

bullet 6% were unsure or did not respond.

It is worth noting that in the year 2000, Californians were able to vote on Proposition 22 which banned same-sex marriage. It was approved by a 61.4% majority. At first glance, this would indicate a 10 percentage point drop in opposition to same-sex marriage. However, the two numbers represent different populations. The Proposition would include some individuals who were so opposed to SSM that they made a point of turning out to vote for the proposition. On the other hand, this survey selected people at random. Also, the proposition was called a "Defense of Marriage Act" which may have biased the voters in favor of the proposition and against SSM. Also, the wording of the proposition question and the survey question were different. All three factors would tend to bias results. We hope that Angus Reid will repeat the survey with the same questions in the future, so that trends will be detectable. 3

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SSM trend from 1988 to 2011:

Nate Silver maintains a "FiveThirtyEight: Nate Silver's Political Calculus" blog in the New York Times. Its mission is:

"... to help New York Times readers cut through the clutter of this data-rich world. The blog is devoted to rigorous analysis of politics, polling, public affairs, sports, science and culture, largely through statistical means. In addition, FiveThirtyEight provides forecasts of upcoming presidential, Congressional, and gubernatorial elections through the use of its proprietary prediction models. ... It is produced in conjunction with The Times’s graphic and interactive journalists and its team of political editors, correspondents and polling experts."

The name comes from the number of electors in the United States electoral college. He is an unusually accomplished statistician. According to Wikipedia, "Silver correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states in the presidential election, as well as every Senate race in 2008." 4

During 2010-AUG, Nate Silver's blog on his web site showed the following graph of public support of and opposition to SSM. 5 It was the first graph that we had seen that showed those the two sides to be evenly matched. He plotted all available polling data, having obtained much of his data from He also included data from the General Social Survey, which started asking about same-sex marriage back in 1988:

Same-sex marriage poll 1988 to 2010 5

He used a locally weighted scatterplot smoothing (LOESS) analysis -- a standard method of analyzing data -- that was first developed by W.S. Cleveland in 1979. He noted that the long-term rate of increase of support for SSM had been between 1 and 1.5 percentage points a year, until recently. This is similar to the rate of increase in support for inter-racial marriages back in the late 20th century. However, from 2009-MAY to 2010-AUG, support surged ahead with about a four percentage point gain.

This was apparently caused by a drop in the "don't know" and "refuse to answer" numbers. He speculated that the surge may have been related to various LGBT-positive groups "... calling for full equity in marriage rights, rather than finding civil unions to be an acceptable compromise."

Later, in a similar article on 2011-APR-20, Nate re-plotted the data showing data from a CNN poll, which showed 51% support and 47% opposed. He wrote that this was the fourth credible poll since 2010-AUG:

"... to show an outright majority of Americans in favor of gay marriage. That represents quite a lot of progress for supporters of same-sex marriage. Prior to last year, there had been just one survey — a Washington Post poll conducted in April 2009 — to show support for gay marriage as the plurality position, and none had shown it with a majority."

Same-sex marriage poll 1988 to 2011 4

A slim majority of voters in two public initiatives -- one in California during 2008 and the other in Maine during 2009 -- were opposed to SSM. However, Nate speculates, that if the votes were held today, both initiatives would probably approve SSM. He further speculates that if the current surge in support for SSM were to continue at the same rate, supporters would outnumber opponents by about 56% to 40% in the general population by election day in 2012-NOV. This would probably be well beyond the ability of investment in a fear-based TV ad campaign to reverse. He comments:

"... Republican candidates, who have placed less emphasis on gay marriage in recent years, probably cannot expect their opposition to it to be a net electoral positive for them except in select circumstances. ... this does put Republicans in a tricky position. Their traditional position on gay marriage is becoming less popular. But to the extent they disengage from the issue, they may lose even more ground. One way to read the trends of the past few years is that we have passed an inflection point wherein it is no longer politically advantageous for candidates to oppose same-sex marriage, which in turn softens opposition to it among the general public, creating a sort of feedback loop and accelerating the trend." 6

The trend towards more support for, and less opposition to, SSM continues into 2013. In 2012-NOV, referendums in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State legalized SSM in those states, and a referendum in Minnesota failed to add a clause to the state constitution to prohibit SSM.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still accessible today.

  1. Michael Foust, "Gallup poll: 58 percent oppose 'gay marriage,' half support amend.," Baptist Press, 2006-MAY-22, at:
  2. Gail Mathabane, "Gays face same battle interracial couples fought," USA Today, 2004-JAN-25.
  3. "Californians Do Not Support Gay 'Marriage,' Says Poll," 2006-MAR-24,
  4. "FiveThirtyEight," Wikipedia, as at: 2011-MAY-18, at:
  5. Nate Silver, "Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage Appears to Shift at Accelerated Pace,", 2010-AUG-12, at:
  6. Nate Silver, "Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority,", 2011-APR-20, at:

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Copyright 2006 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2006-MAY-12
Latest update: 2013-AUG-03
Author: B.A. Robinson
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