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U.S. public opinion polls


Support and opposition among
American adults towards same-sex
marriage (SSM, gay marriages) and
civil unions.

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Current status of same-sex marriages (SSM) and civil unions:

As of 2014-MAY, same-sex marriages were available in 18 jurisdictions (17 states and the District of Columbia) in the U.S. including the two most populous states, California and New York. In excess of 60 lawsuits were active in federal courts in various states to legalize SSM. One of these -- or perhaps a combination of these -- lawsuits were expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as 2015.

SSMs are also available in about 17 other countries, including Canada's 10 provinces and 3 territories as well as England, Wales and Scotland.

Some jurisdictions limit SSM to residents. Other places, like Canada, allow both residents and visitors to marry.

In addition, a few U.S. states and other countries allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, domestic partnerships, or similar arrangements. In the U.S., these couples receive some or all of the rights, privileges, and obligations that the state gives to married couples. However, they do not receive what is for many the most important right of all -- the right to call their relationship a marriage.

Whatever recognition, protections, benefits, given by states to same-sex couples and their children, all were denied 1,138 federal benefits and protections that are automatically given to married opposite-sex couples. This was due to Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This part of DOMA was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2013-JUN.

On 2015-JAN-16, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted appeals of four lawsuits from four states -- Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee -- concerning same-sex marriage (SSM) (a.k.a. gay marriage). The combined case is called Obergefell v. Hodges. On 2015-JUN-26, the high court issued a ruling legalizing SSM across the U.S. SSM became immediately legal throughout the U.S., at least in principle if not in practice! County clerks in some states refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples for a while. However, this was ironed out within a few months. The only exception was American Samoa where most of the population are considered American residents, but not American citizens. As a result, the ruling of the High Court does not necessarily apply in that territory. More details on this case.

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This section lists the results of many public opinion surveys that evaluated the support of, and opposition to, SSM by a random sampling of American adults or registered voters. They are grouped by polling agency. Unfortunately, results are vary significantly on the precise question asked, the wording of questions asked before the SSM query, the time of day that the subject was phoned, the type of phone (cell and/or landline), etc. Thus the findings are not all strictly comparable. However, long-term trends in the direction of increased support, and reduced opposition, to SSM are obvious.

Of particular interest are:

  • 2009-APR: A national Washington Post/ABC poll was the first to suggest that more American adults may support same-sex marriage (49%) than opposed it (46%). However, the margin of of 3 percentage points was very small, and within the sampling error.

  • 2010-AUG: The national Fox News/Opinion Dynamics  poll was the first major poll to show that most American adults support SSM. Asked whether "gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to marry..." the results were 52% in favor, 46% opposed; 2% unsure or no response, for a margin of 6 percentage points.

  • 2011-MAR-10-13: A Washington Post/ABC News national poll reported that 53% of American adults supported same-sex marriage; 44% were opposed. This is a margin of 9 percentage points in favor of SSM! This result was confirmed by other polls shortly after this one.

  • 2011-APR-03: A remarkable survey in New York state -- one of the more liberal states in the U.S. -- showed that 58% of registered voters supported SSM while only 36% were opposed -- a margin of 22 percentage points! Support among Democrats was 65%, Whites: 62%; young voters: 74%; Roman Catholics 59%; and non Judeo-Christians: 78%. Protestants and Republicans remained heavily opposed to marriage equality.

  • 2012-MAY: A Washington Post/ABC poll found that opposition to SSM was 39%. As the Washington Post said: "Gay marriage opposition hits new low" at less than 40% for the first time in a national poll.

  • 2012-JUN-06: CNN/ORC released the findings of a national poll showing that 54% of American adults believe that same-sex marriage (SSM) should be legalized while only 42% are opposed! That is a margin of 12 percentage points, the largest that we have ever seen in a national poll.

  • 2012-JUL-25 to AUG-05: A Washington Post / Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that the CNN/ORC poll was not a fluke. The former found that 53% of American adults supported same-sex marriage; 42% were opposed. This found a margin of 11 percentage points in favor of SSM! The size of the poll -- involving 3,130 persons -- was unusually large, making a margin of error of just ±1.75 percentage points! This is a very reliable result!

  • 2014-MAR: Support reached a new all-time high of 59% in a Washington Post/ABC poll!

  • 2016-MAY: Gallup found that support for gay marriage exceeded 6 out of 10 American adults. Their poll found that 61% believed that "marriages between same-sex couples should ... be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages."

Trends in support and opposition to same-sex marriage have been similar to the earlier trends for interracial marriage back in the late 20th century. For decades, there was a gradual increase in support by about 1 percentage point a year and a gradual decrease in opposition by the same amount. However, for SSM, there seems to have been a speedup in the process  during the early 2010's, of about 2.3 percentage points per year. We speculate that this is due, in part, to:

  • Millions of lesbians, gays and bisexuals who have risked harassment, physical attacks, raw hatred, and animus by coming out of "the closet" to friends and family. Surveys have shown that when an individual finds that a friend or family member is non-heterosexual, many radically change their attitude towards sexual minorities in a positive direction.

  • The extensive debate that lead up to the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the military,

  • Increased public awareness of the extensive harassment of LGBT students, and of the resulting suicides by gay students,

  • A declaration by four federal courts in Massachusetts or California that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional on multiple grounds,

  • Several main political leaders, including President Obama, giving personal statements in support of marriage equality,

  • Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that:
    • overtured Prop. 8 -- the public initiative that temporarily prevented SSMs in California

Raising the public awareness of the lack of equality for LGBT persons, and the consequences of discrimination and harassment might have resulted in more adults discussing and studying the treatment of LGBTs. This, in turn, may have caused a change in public opinion of SSM.

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Topics on same-sex marriage (SSM) covered in this section:

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > Polls > here

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Copyright © 2001 TO 2016  by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2016-OCT-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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