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Religious Tolerance logo

Same sex marriage (SSM) in Rhode Island

Part 2: Public opinion polls:
Polls taken from 2009-DEC to now

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A summary of polls, and data from older polls are in the previous essay

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More recent public opinion polls:

  • 2009-DEC: The National Organization for Marriage -- Rhode Island conducted a public opinion poll in the state. The group's main activity is to prohibit SSM. They asked the following question of those polled:

    "As far as you are concerned personally, do you favor or oppose same-sex marriage in Rhode Island? And do you feel strongly about this?"

    Results were:

    • 43% strongly or somewhat favored SSM;
    • 32% strongly or somewhat opposed SSM, for a margin of 11 percentage points in favor of SSM;
    • 23% were undecided. 1

During a television interview on 2011-APR-29, NOM-Rhode Island's executive director, Christopher Plante, claimed that "... the people of Rhode Island don't want same-sex marriage." This statement earned him the "Pants on Fire" rating -- the most negative rating that PolitiFact has. 1

  • 2010-JUL: A poll commissioned by Rhode Island Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (RI-GLAD) showed:
    • 59% strongly or somewhat favored SSM;
    • 31% strongly or somewhat opposed SSM, for a margin of 28 percentage points in favor of SSM;

Because only 502 likely voters were sampled, the margin of error is about ±4.4 percentage points. 1

  • 2011-FEB: A poll by Public Policy Polling showed that:
    • 50% favored SSM
    • 41% opposed SSM. for a margin of only 9 percentage points -- the smallest of any survey.
    • 9% didn't have an opinion or did not answer.

They commented:

    "Unsurprisingly Democrats are strongly in favor of legalization, by a 65/27 margin, while Republicans oppose it by a 73/12 spread. Independents are by far the largest voter bloc in Rhode Island and they favor it by a 47/45 margin." 2

  • 2012-SEP-25 to 28: A poll by WPRI-12 surveyed 501 likely Rhode Island voters and found:
    • 56% favored SSM
    • 36% opposed SSM for a margin of 20 percentage points in favor of SSM
    • 72% of Democrats favor SSM
    • 64% of those aged 18 to 39 favor SSM
    • 59% of Republicans oppose SSM
    • 43% of persons 60 and older oppose SSM. This is a rare poll in which persons of all ages favor SSM.

Because only 501 likely voters were sampled, the margin of error is about ±4.4 percentage points. 3

  • 2013-FEB-22: The Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University found 60.4% support and 26.1% opposition among voters -- a ratio of 2.3 to 1. This is the highest ratio that we have seen in any state. 593 state voters were sampled. The margin of error is ±4.0 percentage points. 4

Some questions asked, with the voters' responses were:

  • "Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into same-sex marriages?"
    Favor 60.4%;  oppose 26.1%;  depends* 3.7%;  DK/NA 9.8%

  • [Asked of people who favor allowing same-sex marriage] "Would you say that you strongly favor or just somewhat favor?"
    Strongly favor 62.1%;  somewhat favor 32.5%;  depends* 3.0%;  not sure 2.4%

  • [Asked of people who oppose allowing same-sex marriage] "Would you say that you strongly oppose or just somewhat oppose?" Strongly oppose 59.5%;  somewhat oppose 32.0%;  depends* 1.8%;  not sure 6.7%

  • [Asked of people who favor allowing same-sex marriage] What are some of the reasons why you favor legal same-sex marriages?
    Open-ended responses recorded as:
        Equal rights/Everyone should have same rights, freedom  49.2%
        Personal choice/Love, Happiness matters, not sexual orientation  27.7%
        Not my business/Not government’s business to decide  4.8%
        Have friends/family who are gay/lesbian  6.6%
        Everyone is equal in God’s eyes  1.7%
        Born that way  1.4%
        Medical, insurance, financial purposes  0.6%
        Need to separate state and church  2.0%
        Other  5.4%
        No opinion  0.6%

  • [Asked of people who oppose allowing same-sex marriage] What are some of the reasons why you oppose legal same-sex marriages? Open-ended responses recorded as:
        Religion/Bible says it is wrong  40.8%
        Marriage should be between a man and woman  22.4%
        Morally wrong/Have traditional beliefs  7.9%
        Civil unions are sufficient  10.5%
        Unnatural/Against laws of nature  5.3%
        Undermines traditional family structure/Mother and father  6.6%
        Other  4.6%
        No opinion  1.9%
The poll's margin of error is ±4.0 percentage points. About 60% of those opposed and those in favor of SSM felt strongly about their position.

Curiously, the age range of the respondents who were most in favor of SSM were 30 to 39 years at 89%. Usually the greatest support is from people who are 18 to 29 years-of-age. This is the highest percentage we have seen in any state or national survey to date. Respondents aged 18 to 29 were 77% in favor; those 40 to 49 were 74% in favor. Only those 70 and over had a plurality opposed to SSM. 4They are, of course, relatively few in numbers.

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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. "Executive director of marriage group says most Rhode Islanders oppose gay marriage," PolitiFact Rhode Island, 2011-MAY-11, at:
  2. "RI supports gay marriage," Public Policy Polling, 2011-FEB-22, at:
  3. Ted Nesi, "Poll: Ccilline rebounds, now leads Doherty by 6 points," WPRI Eyewitness News, 2012-OCT-02, at:
  4. "Poll: R.I. supports same-sex marriage," Brown University, 2013-FEB-28, at:

Copyright © 2007 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-FEB-24
Latest update: 2013-APR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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