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

Newsweek polls 2004 - 2008.
New York Times/CBS polls: 2004 - 2012
New York Times analysis by state: 2010

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Continued from an earlier essay

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2004-2008: Newsweek polls 1,2 (Cont'd):

Trends in the way that the public prefers that same-sex relationships be recognized ... or not:
2004 support
2006 support 2008 support
Support full marriage rights
Support civil unions or domestic partnerships
27 32
Oppose any recognition; treat them as simple roommates
37 30

The percentage of the public who favors some form of recognition of same-sex relationships that would give loving, committed same-sex couples rights and protections for themselves and their children has risen from 51% in 2004 and 2006 to 63% in 2008 -- almost 2 to 1.

every category, data for 2008 shows significantly more support for homosexual rights than for the year 2004.

The effect of age: the generation gap:

The Newsweek poll alsoreported responses by age groups. They showed a consistent trend in which young adults are more supportive of equal rights for gays and lesbians, whereas older adults are less supportive. For example, on the question whether gays and lesbians be allowed to marry, results were:
Age group In favor  Opposed
Don't know/
refuse answer
18 to 34 51% 40% 9%
35 to 44 43 54 3
45  to 64 38 58 4
65+ 22 69 9
All ages 39 55 6

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2004 to 2012: New York Times/CBS polls concerning the public's preferred treatment of same-sex couples:

Respondents were asked whether they would prefer that same-sex couples should:

  • Be given no legal recognition by governments; they would be considered "legal strangers." or
  • Be able to form civil unions -- with rights, benefits and protections similar to marriage -- but not be able to marry, or
  • Be allowed to marry, then

the public's answer was very clear back in 2004/2005: over 40% answered "no recognition;" they should be treated as mere roommates. But positions evolve, largely as a result of hundreds of thousands of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals taking major physical and emotional risks by coming out of "the closet." The result is every politician's nightmare. The public supports all three positions, more or less to the same degree.

Support for same-sex marriage has about doubled over the interval from 2004 to 2012; support for no legal recognition and for civil unions has gone down. But there are still major groups of the public holding each of the three positions:

Preferences for same-sex couples 3

The poll in 2012-MAY showed that 62% preferred some form of recognition: the largest percentage, 38%, favored same-sex marriage; 24% preferred that same-sex couples be limited to civil unions. Finally, 33% favored no recognition at all.

Additional questions were asked:

  • 57% believe that individual states should decide which couples should be able to marry.
  • About 33% felt that the federal government should have ultimate authority.

Throughout the history of the U.S., it has been up to the states to decide who can marry. The federal government accepted each state's definition of marriage and treated all married couples equally who had been legally married in their own state. This came to a halt in 1996 when the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed. It withdrew federal support, benefits, and protection from all legally married same-sex couples.

The polling was conducted between MAY-11 and 13 among 615 adults via landlines and cell phones. The margin of sampling error is ~+mn~4 percentage points.

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New York Times analysis by state:

On 2010-AUG-20, the New York Times published the following graph. showing the estimated percentage support for same-sex marriage in each state. At the time that the graph was prepared, approximately 50% of adults supported same-sex marriage. Since then, support has significantly increased, so that many states have probably moved towards the "blue" end of the scale. Andrew Gelman, Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of, Columbia University had prepared the graphic. The states outlined in black had legalized SSM by late 2012.

Only Utah was below 30% in support -- presumbaly because of the high membership in that state of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- The Mormons. California, which narrowly passed Proposition 8 to terminate new same-sex marriages in 2008-NOV, now is over 60% support. New York State has since legalized SSM.

SSM Support by state, as of mid 2010.

New York Times, SSM suppport by state 4

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Information from CNN/ORC and Washington Post/Kaiser
Family Foundation polls continues on the next 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. Arian Campo-Flores, "A Gay Marriage Surge Public support grows, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll," Newsweek, 2008-DEC-05, at:
  2. "Newsweek Poll: Gay Marriage/President-Elect Obama," Newsweek, 2008-DEC-05, at: This is a PDF file.
  3. Dalia Sussman, "Poll: Age and Partisanship Continue to Mark Divide Over Gay Marriage," New York Times, 2012-MAY-14, at:
  4. Support for same-sex marriage," New York Times, 2010-AUG-20, at:

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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: 2008
Latest update: 2012-JUN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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