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Same sex marriage (SSM) in Rhode Island

Part 1: Public opinion polls:
Summary, and polls during 2008/2009

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2008-JUL: Public opinion poll on SSM:

Rhode Island has an unusually large percentage of Roman Catholics. The 2010 religion census showed that 44% of the population belong to a Catholic parish. This was a precipitous decline of 14 percentage points since the year 2000, 1 probably as the result of three factors: the gradual secularization of the culture, the clergy molestation crisis, and -- perhaps the most important of all -- the attempted cover up of the crisis by the hierarchy. However, even with the loss of members, Rhode Island still has a much larger percentage of Catholics than does the nation as a whole, which is approximately 24% Catholic.

Because of the Church's very strong stand against same-sex marriage (SSM) one would expect that public support for SSM would be minimal in the state. However, polls in other states show that the Roman Catholics laity typically supports SSM at equal or higher levels than does the overall population, in defiance of their Church's teaching. 5

According to Wikipedia in 2013-JAN, one Rhode Island survey:

"... showed that 63% of Catholics supported same-sex marriage provided it did not infringe on the church's right to choose whom it marries." 2

Still, the large number of Catholics in the state still causes the Church to have a great deal of influence over the government.

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Summary of data:

Date Polling agency Support SSM Oppose SSM Margin of support for SSM in percentage points
2008-JUL Greenberg Quinlan Rosner
10 p.p.
2009 MAY/JUL Providence Journal
16 p.p.
2009-MAY Brown University Poll
29 p.p.
2009-DEC National Org. for Marriage *
11 p.p.
28 p.p.
2011-FEB Public Policy Polling
9 p.p.
2012-SEP WPRI-12
20 p.p.
2013-FEB Brown University Poll
34 p.p

* This poll's results are at variance from all of the other polls. It also had a much larger percentage of people who are undecided. It was sponsored by the main national organization opposing equal marriage, and may be unreliable.

Ignoring the National Organization for Marriage poll, there appears to be a 2 percentage point average increase per year in support and a slightly faster decrease in opposition between 2008 and 2013. This has resulted in an approximately 5 per centage point average increase in margin per year in the state. A similar result is seen in other states as well.

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2008-JUL, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll:

The pollsters asked 500 Rhode Island voters how they would likely vote in the next election if asked the question: "Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally?

Results were:

bullet 49% supported same-sex marriage. This compares with 45% in 2006 an increase of almost one percentage point per year -- close to the national average.
bullet 39% opposed SSM.
bullet 12% are undecided or didn't answer.

The religious affiliation among those surveyed was:

bullet 51% Catholic,
bullet 23% Protestant, and
bullet 3% Jewish.

2009-MAY and JULY: Informal 2009 poll:

In an informal survey, of nearly 4,000 of the Providence Journal's (ProJo) online readers produced the following results by 2009-MAY-15:

bullet 58% supported SSM
bullet 42% opposed SSM. 3

The higher values, compared to the previous survey are probably a combination of:

bullet The general trend in favor of SSM seen in recent years in the U.S.
bullet The fact that the newspaper did not offer "don't know" or "refuse to answer" as options, thus forcing their readers to take a stand.
bullet The persons answering the poll are self selected, and thus more highly motivated.
bullet The persons answering the poll are all Internet users, and may have different opinions from the general population.
bullet Anyone who lives anywhere in the world can express their opinion.

For these reasons, Internet polls are notoriously inaccurate. A randomly selected group of adults or adult voters gives far better results.

About two months later, 5.085 persons had answered the poll. The "Yes" vote was 57&; the "No" vote is 43%.

2009-MAY: Brown University Poll:

The Taubman Center for Public Policy conducted a survey of 593 randomly selected Rhode Island voters between 2009-MAY-18 and 20. margin of error is ~+mn~4 percentage points. Results were:

bullet 60% would support a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married;
bullet 31% percent said they would oppose a SSM law. for a margin of 29 percentage point -- the highest value for any poll;
bullet 9% percent did not know or refused to answer.

The researchers also determined support for civil unions:

bullet 75% would support civil unions for same-sex couples with the same rights as same-sex marriage, but without the name "marriage."
bullet 17% would oppose civil unions
bullet 8% did not know or refused to answer.

Surprisingly, there was little difference among men (60% favor) and women (59%)

As expected there was a major difference by age:

bullet 87% of adults 18-29-year-olds support SSM, as do
bullet 70% of those aged 30 to 39 years, and
bullet 32% of those 70 and older

Also as expected, political affiliation had a major effect:

bullet 77% of Democrats support SSM, as do
bullet 28% of Republicans, and
bullet 56% of independents. 4

65 percent of Rhode Island voters believe the state is on the wrong track. Only 36% feel that Gov. Donald Carcieri is doing a "good" or "excellent"job.

More recent polls are described 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. "RI loses position as most Catholic state to Mass., Associated Press, 2012-MAY-02, at:
  2. "Same-sex marriage in Rhode Island," Wikipedia, as on 2013-JAN-22, at:
  3. Katherine Gregg, "R.I.'s dueling same-sex marriage bills elicit personal stories," Rhode Island News, 2009-FEB-27, at:
  4. "Most Rhode Islanders Support Same-Sex Marriage, Survey Finds," Taubman Center, Brown University, 2009-MAY-27, at:
  5. Michael A Jones, "Not All Catholics Follow Pope Benedict XVI on Same-Sex Marriage," Marriage Equality RI, 2009-FEB-17, at:

Copyright 2008 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-FEB-24
Latest update: 2014-NOV-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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