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Religious Tolerance logo

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

2013: Polls by Washington Post, ABC, and Reuters

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Continued from an earlier essay

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2013-MAR-18: Washington Post/ABC Poll:

A national poll by Capital Insight on behalf of the Washington Post and ABC News shows the highest level of support for SSM to date. 1,2 This is the first of two polls that might have been triggered by the upcoming oral hearings by the U.S. Supreme Court in two lawsuits:

  • One involves a challenge to the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Prop. 8 terminated same-sex marriage in California in 2008-NOV.

  • The other involves the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legally solemnized in the District of Columbia or in one of the 9 states that has legalized SSM. It cuts off same-sex legally married couples from receiving about 1,140 federal government programs.

Capital Insight found the following results from this poll:

  • When asked: "Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?" 58% answered "legal"; 36% answered "Illegal;" 6% didn't know or didn't answer. The ratio of support to opposition, is inching towards 2:1.

  • 64% believe that the legalization of SSM should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Consitution. This presumably means it should be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the ultimate authority in the U.S. for interpreting the Constitution. Meanwhile, 33% believe that each state should make its own law. 3% didn't have an opinion or didn't answer.

  • 62% believe that being homosexual is "just the way they are." About 20 years ago, less than half of the public agreed with this position. Still, 24% believe that homosexuality is something that people choose. A rather large percentage, 14%, didn't know or didn't answer. Most religious liberals, therapists, human sexuality researchers, and the LGBT community believe that one's sexual orientation is discovered, not chosen. However, a large percentage of social and religious conservatives believe that it is chosen.

  • The WP/ABC article reported that: "In the states that allow gay marriage, 68 percent say such same-sex marriages should be legal, but so too do 56 percent of adults in states where the practice is not legal."

Results over the last 9 years by political affiliation:

Last 9 years results by political party 3

Of particular interest were results as a function of age and political party choice:

For adults under the age of 49:

  • Among Democrats and Democratic-leading Independent adults, 73% favor SSM; 22% are opposed, 5% didn't know or didn't answer.
  • Among Republicans and Republican-leading independent adults, 52% favor SSM; 43% are opposed, 5% didn't know or didn't answer. This is the first polling result that we have seen in which a majority of young adult Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents favor SSM.

For adults between 50 and 64:

  • Among Democrats and Democratic-leading Independent adults, 73% favor SSM; 22% are opposed, 5% didn't know or didn't answer.
  • Among Republicans and Republican-leading Independent adults, 37% favor SSM; 52% are opposed, 11% didn't know or didn't answer.

For seniors over the age of 64:

  • Among Democrats and Democratic-leading Independent seniors, 64% favor SSM; 32% are opposed, 4% didn't know or didn't answer.
  • Among Republicans and Republican-leading Independent seniors, 25% favor SSM; 68% are opposed, 7% didn't know or didn't answer. This groups is the most highly opposed to SMS

The poll was taken between MAR-07 to 10 among a national randomized sample of 1,001 adults. The margin of error was the usual ±3.5 percentage points.

Chad Griffin is president of the Human Rights Campaign -- one of the main groups promoting marriage equality. He said:

"There can be no doubt that this country is on a one-way road to marriage for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. This new poll reflects the continued evolution of people’s attitudes through thoughtful conversations over dinner tables and water coolers. ..."

"The poll found increasing support of marriage for gay and lesbian couples among a variety of demographic groups.  Adults 18 to 29 support marriage equality at 81 percent.  Support among seniors has jumped 26 percentage points in the last nine years, Republican support has jumped 18 points since 2004, and Independent support is at 62 percent compared to 38 percent nine years ago." 3

Significance for the future:

Already, a majority of young to middle-aged Democrat, Independent and even Republican adults under the age of 50 favor SSM. Political parties are either going to have to support these beliefs, or suffer a loss in membership.

If current trends hold, sometime in 2014 a majority of older Democrats, Independent and Republican adults 18 to 65 will also favor SSM.

Probably, by the end of 2014, the only group opposed to SSM will be Republicans and Republican-leaning seniors 65 years-of-age and older. Again, if recent trends continue, a majority of seniors will favor SSM by the end of the year 2015.

If we assume that the U.S. remains a democracy and not a theocracy, by the middle of the 2010 decade a majority of adults of all ages and political affiliation will favor marriage equality. SSM is developing an air of inevitability. 1,2 This assumption is supported by a number of religiously and socially conservative organizations opposed to SSM and marriage equality. They have recently brought up the question of inevitability and are attempting to assure their supporters that the trend towards acceptance of SSM can be beaten back.

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2013-MAR: Reuters/Ipsos conducts a poll about federal government benefits for married same-sex couples:

Between MAR-05 and MAR-14, Reuters/Ipsos contacted 2,886 adults and asked them whether they felt that married same-sex couples should receive Social Security survivor payments and other federal benefits. There are about 1,140 federal benefits that are routinely provided to married opposite-sex couples. Same-sex married couples receive none, because of the federal DOMA law. Reuters/Ipsos found that a majority supported such benefits across all regions of the U.S., even in the American South -- an area of the country that is traditionally much more conservative. The average for the entire country was 55%. That is a surprising result, because so many Americans are acutely aware of the federal deficit and anxious to not increase it. The poll's margin of error is ±1.8 percentage points.

These results will have direct applicability to the Windsor v. United States lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme is currently considering. The Court hears oral arguments on this case during MAR-27, and is expected to rule on the lawsuit in late 2013-JUN. 4

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More national SSM polls are covered in 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. Chris Cillizza, "Gay marriage support hits new high in Post-ABC poll," The Fix, Washington Post, 2013-MAR-18, at:
  2. Jon Cohen, "Gay marriage support hits new high in Post-ABC poll," Washington Post, 2013-MAR-18, at:
  3. "General Hate -- 198 groups," Intelligence Report," Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 2013; Issue 149, P. 48.
  4. Maurice Tamman and Joan Biskupic, "Majority supports benefits for same-sex couples: Reuters/Ipsos poll," Reuters, 2013-MAR-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 © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-MAR-22
Latest update: 2013-MAR-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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