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National longitudinal U.S. public opinion
polls on same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions

2008-2012: Longitudinal polls by CNN/ORC and
by Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation

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Continued from an earlier essay

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CNN/ORC International poll of 2012-MAY-30:

This poll confirms data from other major polling agencies, that the majority of American adults now support the legalization of same-sex marriage. But the most remarkable result of this poll was the margin of support in 2012-MAY: 54% support SSM; 42% are opposed. This is a margin of 12 percentage point -- the largest that we had seen in any national poll up to to that date. 1,2

Another interesting finding is that 72% of SSM supporters and 80% of those opposed feel strongly about the issue. This improves that chances that any citizen initiative will attract voters who reflect the views of the general population, rather than being biased in the direction of the group that feels more strongly about the topic.

As expected, about 72% of Republican voters oppose SSM while about 70% of Democrats favor marriage equality. Those who "don't know" or did not answer has historically been quite small, indicating a strong polarization among the public on this very controversial topic.

Also as expected, almost two thirds of those under 50 favor legalizing SSM while 55% of those 50 years-of-age or older oppose it.

The poll was conducted between 2012-MAY-29 and 31. This was several weeks after President Obama and several other Democratic political leaders discussed their personal support of SSM on national television.

The poll involved 1,009 adults randomly selected across the nation. 756 were conducted by land line; 253 by cell phone. The sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

The question asked was: "Do you think marriages between gay and lesbian couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?"

Results of various polls from mid 2008 to mid 2012 are:

Date 2008-JUN 2008-DEC 2009-AUG 2011-APR 2011-SEP 2012-MAY
Yes
44%
44%
44%
51%
53%
54%
No
53%
55%
54%
47%
46%
42%
No opinion
3%
1%
2%
2%
1%
3%

Over a four year interval, support for SSM has risen 10 percentage points. This is a rate of about 2.3 percentage points a year -- an unusually large rate of change. ; Opposition has dropped 11 percentage points. The previous redefinition of marriage occurred during the late 20th century with the shift in favor of allowing interracial marriage. That shift averaged only about 1 percentage point per year between 1948 and 1991.

Within specific groups. the data for the 2012-MAY poll are:

Group In favor of SSM Opposed to SSM
All
54%
42%
Men
52
43
Women
56
42
White
52*
44*
Non-white
59*
39*
Registered to vote?
53
44
18 to 34 yrs.
73
24
35 to 49 yrs.
55
43
50 to 64 yrs.
46
50
65 yrs. and over
34
62
Under 50 yrs.
65
32
50 and older
41
55
Didn't attend college
47
50
Attended college
60
37
Democrat
70
28
Republican
23
72
Independent
60
37

* The data on Whites and Non-Whites seem to be in error. Every other poll that on SSM that contains opinion by race has had a much larger percentage of whites compared to non-whites supporting SSM. We suspect that CNN has exchanged the values.

When asked "Do you happen to have a family member or close friend who is gay or lesbian?," those who did increased from 32% to 60% between 1994-JAN and 2012-MAY, while those who didn't dropped from 66% to 40%. There are three logical explanations to this remarkable shift:

  1. The number of gays and lesbians is increasing rapidly over time.
  2. The percentage of gays and lesbians who are open to others about their sexual orientation is increasing rapidly.
  3. Both affects are happening.

We suspect that #2 is by far the most likely explanation.

Subjects polled were asked "Do you think someone who is homosexual can change their sexual orientation if they choose to do so, or don't you think so." Those who thought gays and lesbians could change decreased from 51% to 34% between 1998-OCT and 2012-MAY, while those believe that gays' and lesbians' sexual orientation is fixed increased from 36% to 58%. Generally speaking, the vast majority of conservative faith groups teach that people can change their orientation with some considerable effort if heavily motivated, while all of the major professional organizations in the human sexuality and therapeutic field have concluded that all or essentially adults cannot change by way of any counseling program or therapy.

The results of these surveys are by far the most interesting of any polls we have seen. Unfortunately, the questions appear to have based on the assumption that there are only two sexual orientations: homosexual, and heterosexual. Bisexuality was not included.

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CNN/ORC International poll of 2013-MAR-16:

The poll results found:

  • The percentage of American adults who say they have a family member or close friend who is gay or lesbian has increased from 45% in 2007 to 57% in 2013.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said that the percentage:

"... of Americans who support same-sex marriage has risen by almost the same amount in that time - from 40% in 2007 to 53% today - strongly suggesting that the rise in support for gay marriage is due in part to the rising number of Americans who have become aware that someone close to them is gay. Some people have recently taken to calling it the 'Rob Portman effect,' after the Republican senator from Ohio who learned that his son is gay and changed his position on gay marriage as a result."

He also said:

"Attitudes toward homosexuality are the result of many complex, interrelated factors. Past polling, for example, has also shown that support for gay marriage has risen during a time when a growing number of Americans believe that homosexuality is something a person is born with. But years of polling suggests that the growing number of Americans who know someone who is gay has contributed to an environment in which gay marriage now receives support from a majority of Americans."

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser said:

    "According to the poll, people who say they know someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely to be younger and more likely to have attended college, with women more likely to say that than men. And not surprisingly, support for gay marriage is highest among women, college educated Americans, and the young. 6

  • The poll was conducted by ORC International between MAR-15 and 17. 1,021 American adults were sampled. The resulting margin of error is ±3 percentage points]

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Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation Polls:

The 2012-AUG nationwide poll involved 3,130 adults for a margin of error of ±1.75 percentage points. This poll is unusual because of the large number of persons surveyed.

The question asked was:

"Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?"

Results of the six most polls are:

Date 2010-FEB 2011-MAR 2011-JUL 2012-MAR 2012-MAY 2012-AUG
Yes
47%
53%
51%
52%
53%
53%
No
50%
44%
45%
43%
39%
42%
Margin in favor of SSM
-3 p.p.
9 p.p.
6 p.p.
9 p.p.
14 p.p.
11 p.p
No opinion/no answer
3%
3%
4%
5%
8%
5%

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2013 polls are discussed in the next page.

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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. "CNN Poll: Americans' attitudes toward gay community changing," CNN, 2012-JUN-06, at: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/
  2. "CNN/ORC Poll," Turner.com, 2012-JUN-06,  at: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/
  3. Polling Report.com has a large report on same-sex marriage and equal rights for the LGBT community at: http://www.pollingreport.com/
  4. Chris Cillizza, "Gay marriage support hits new high in Post-ABC poll," The Fix, Washington Post, 2013-MAR-18, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  5. Jon Cohen, "Gay marriage support hits new high in Post-ABC poll," Washington Post, 2013-MAR-18, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  6. "CNN Poll: 'Rob Portman effect' fuels support for same-sex marriage," CNN, 2013-MAR-25, at: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/

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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 2013  by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008
Latest update: 2013-MAR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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