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Longitudinal U.S. public opinion polls
on same-sex marriage and civil unions

Peter D. Hart, Gallup Inc., and Newsweek polls.

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Peter D. Hart Research Associates' 2004-MAY and 2006-APR polls:

They conducted a poll in 2006-APR among 802 registered voters. The margin of error is ±3.5 percentage points. They conducted a similar poll about two years earlier. This is one of the rare polls that gave subjects three options about recognizing same-sex relationships. Support for SSM appears to be dropping even as support for civil unions is increasing. Results for a poll in 2004-MAY and 2006-APR were:

Preference 2004-MAY poll 2006-APR poll
Gay/lesbian couples should have the same right to marry as men and women do. 27% 25%
Give civil unions or other legal rights to same-sex couples 34% 40%
Give no legal regulation to gay or lesbian couples 36% 33%

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay-positive human rights group, writes:

bullet"Catholic voters are especially wary of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Majorities of Catholic voters say states should make their own marriage laws (53 percent, while only 37 percent support the amendment). When asked about the statement 'Marriage is about love and commitment. Regardless of how I personally feel about gay people getting married, I don't think it's my place to judge these people's love for and commitment to each other,' an overwhelming 80 percent agreed."

bullet"General political environment for gay issues is changing. In a similar survey done by Hart in May 2004, only 40 percent of voters said it was very important that we ensure gays and lesbians receive the same rights under law as other Americans. In this poll, 51 percent said it was very important." That is an unusually large change in 23 months. 1

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Gallup Organization polls of 2006-MAY and later:

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

bulletOn extending marriage to include "gay marriage:"
bullet58% are opposed.
bullet39% are in favor
bullet3% are undecided or did not respond.
bulletIn 2006, the opposition to "gay marriage" is at approximately equal to the opposition to interracial marriage in the mid 1980s.

bulletThe trends appears to be towards decreased opposition to same-sex marriage. The Gallup Organization has asked in this and previous polls: "Do you think marriages between homosexuals should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?" They reported opposition at:
bullet68% in 1996-MAR;
bullet62% in 1999-FEB;
bullet59% in 2005-AUG;
bullet58% in 2006-MAY.
bulletAs with earlier data on interracial marriage, the rate of decline in opposition to same-sex marriage is approximately one percentage point a year.

bulletIn their 2006-MAY poll, Gallup used a more precise question in addition to the above. They substituted the term "same-sex couples" for "homosexuals". This is more accurate because some same-sex couples involve one or two bisexuals. Opposition dropped from 58% to 56%. 2,3

During 2011-MAY-05-08, they conducted a poll of 1,018 randomly selected American adults and found 53% support for SSM and 45% opposition. They published a chart on MAY-20 showing results back as far as 1996. Note that support for SSM almost doubled from 27% to 53% between 1996 and 2011.:

graph by Gallup Inc showing support for SSM

This style of presentation in which a long rectangular graph is used to stretch out the time dimension can convey an inaccurate impression  of change over time. The dark green line showing the increase in approval of SSM over time in the above graph seems to show a slow, gradual, unimpressive increase. However, by studying the numbers, one realizes that support has essentially doubled -- from 27 to 63% -- over the interval. Graphs that are roughly square in shape convey change more accurately to the public. An example can be see elsewhere in this section.

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Newsweek polls:

This was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from 2008-DEC-03 and 04, among 1,006 randomly selected American adults. 4,5 Margin of error is ±3.7 percentage points. Following seven questions related to the Iraq war, President Bush, and President-Elect Obama, the pollsters asked questions concerning equal rights for gays and lesbians: The pollster explained: "Now I have a few questions about the situation for gay men and women in this country and the issue of gay rights...Do you think there should or should NOT be..."

Results for the 2008 poll, and comparative results for previous polls, are shown below. Results from various years are not strictly comparable because:

bulletThe various years' polls would probably have different questions asked before the ones relating to same-sex relationships are reached. This might have biased the subject for or against such relationships.

bulletPrevious years' polls might have been influenced by developments at the time in same-sex marriage or civil unions.

bulletSometimes, the specific wording of some of the questions is changed.

Topics dealing with civil unions, marriages and adoption:

Topic Year of poll  Should be Should not be Don't know/
refuse answer
Legally-sanctioned gay and lesbian unions or partnerships 2008-DEC 55% 36% 9%
  2004-FEB 40 51 9
  2000-FEB to SEP 47 42 11

Topic Year of poll  Should be Should not be Don't know/
refuse answer
Legally sanctioned gay and lesbian marriages 2008-DEC 39% 55% 6%
  2004-FEB 33 58 9
  2002-APR 35 57 8
  2000-MAR 34 57 9
  1998-JUL 33 61 6
  1996-MAY 33 58 9
  1994-FEB 32 62 9
  1992-SEP 35 59 7
         
Response by those who view marriage as a legal matter 2008-DEC 66% 29% 5%
Response by those who view marriage as a religious matter or as both a religious and legal matter 2008-DEC 27 67 6

How a person views marriage -- as a legal process, as a religious matter, or as both -- profoundly affects their acceptance or rejection of same-sex marriage.

Topic Year of poll  Should be Should not be Don't know/
refuse answer
Adoption rights for gays and lesbians so that they can legally adopt children 2008-DEC 53% 39% 8%
  2004-FEB 45 47 8
  2002-APR 46 44 10
  2000-FEB to SEP 46 47 7

A main factor that determines a person's view on adoption by homosexuals is their belief about the cause of sexual orientation in humans.

bulletA person is liable to oppose gay adoption if they have negative views on homosexuality, and if they believe that sexual orientation is a learned and chosen behavior. They are presumably concerned that the adopted children will choose to be gay when they grow up.

bulletThose that are more comfortable with homosexuality and who believe that it is largely genetically determined tend to accept gay adoption. They realize that sexual orientation is something that one discovers rather than chooses.

Trends in public support for gay and lesbian domestic partners on additional topics (2000 to 2008):

Topic Year 2000 support 2004 support 2008 support
Support for inheritance rights 62% 60% 74%
Support for Social Security  benefits 54 55 67
Health insurance & other employee benefits 58 60 73
Hospital visitation rights for partners - - 86

Trends in public support for individual gays and lesbians:
Topic Year 2000 support  2004 support 2008 support
Support to serve openly in the military 57% 60% 66%
Support for equal rights in job opportunities 83 87 87
Support for equal rights in housing 78 - 82
Support for hiring as elementary school teachers 60 - 62
Support for hiring as high school teachers 63 - 69

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Information from Newsweek polls continues on another essay

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References used:

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

  1. "HRC poll shows marriage amendment not priority for voters," 2006-MAY-09, at: http://www.gayalliance.org/
  2. "GOP renews fight against gay marriage. Bush calls for amendment, but critics see election-year diversion," CNN, 2006-JUN-05, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  3. Michael Foust, "Gallup poll: 58 percent oppose 'gay marriage,' half support amend.," Baptist Press, 2006-MAY-22, at: http://www.bpnews.net/
  4. Arian Campo-Flores, "A Gay Marriage Surge Public support grows, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll," Newsweek, 2008-DEC-05, at: http://www.newsweek.com/
  5. "Newsweek Poll: Gay Marriage/President-Elect Obama," Newsweek, 2008-DEC-05, at: http://www.newsweek.com/ This is a PDF file.
  6. "For first time, majority of Americans favor legal gay marriage," Gallup Inc, 2011-MAY-20, at: http://www.gallup.com/ Image copyright © Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > Polls > SSM-Civil union polls > here

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Copyright © 2001 TO 2012  by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2012=JUN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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