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Religious Tolerance logo

Trends in U.S. public opinion polls on
same-sex marriage (SSM) & civil unions

Comparing support for SSMs &
civil unions, by state, in 2008

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Support for SSM and civil unions by state:

A paper by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University compared the percentage support for both same-sex marriages and civil unions for each state in the U.S. They state that:

"Opinion is estimated using data from 1994-2008, weighted towards the most recent levels of support."

Their article is titled "Gay rights in the states: Public opinion and policy responsiveness," and was published in the American Political Science Review. 1

Their Figure 5 in that article shows estimated support for SSM -- in the red circles -- and civil unions -- in the blue triangles -- for each state. Those states that have legalized SSM or civil unions as of mid-2009 are shown in solid color. 2

Support for ssm and civil unions

Some observations:

  • In the graph, states are sorted according to the average percentage support for civil unions. Utah is at the bottom with only about 32% support for SSM; Massachusetts is at the top of the chart with about 69% support.

  • Apparently no data was collected from Washington, DC.

  • In all of the 50 states, support for civil unions is much higher than for same-sex marriage.

  • Some subjects polled were opposed to both SSM and civil unions for loving, committed couples. They would prefer that these couples be recognized by the state only as roommates. These subjects did not total the majority in any of the states.

  • The seven states with highest support for SSM (MA, RI, NY, VT, CT, NJ, NH) are all in the Northeast.

  • Of the nine states with the lowest support for SSM and civil unions (UT, AR, AL, MS, OK, TN, KY. NC, LA) almost all are from the South. One of the exceptions is Utah. SSM support there is probably influenced by the high percentage of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). That particular denomination has greater opposition to recognition of loving, committed, same-sex couples than almost all of the other Christian faith groups. The church and its members successfully gave tens of millions of dollars in contributions to overturn SSM in California.

  • In two states, New York and Rhode Islands, most adults support SSM, while support for civil unions is approaching 2:1. Yet their legislatures have refused to pass legislation that would consider the status of loving, committed same-sex couples as anything more than roommates -- except for limited recognition in New York state. New York state's legislature considered but rejected SSM bill in early 2010. In Rhode Island, bills to legalize same-sex marriages have been introduced to the Senate Judiciary Committee every year since 1997. None have proceeded; none have even made it out of committee. The Roman Catholic Church is particlarly influential in that state.

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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. Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips, "Gay rights in the states: Public opinion and policy responsiveness."American Political Science Review, Volume 103 (3), 2009, at: http://www.columbia.edu/ This is a PDF file.
  2. Ibid, Figure 6: "Same-sex marriage and civil unions: Policy and public opinion in the states," Page 47.

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Home > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > Polls > SSM-Civil union polls > here

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-FEB-27
Latest update: 2010-FEB-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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