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Same-sex marriage (SSM)

Trends in support of and opposition to SSM
by U.S. adults: From 1986 to 2013-JUN

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Results of major polls: Years 1986 to 2011:

The Pew Research Center conducted a public opinion poll between 2008-MAY-21 and 25. This was shortly after the Supreme Court of California issued a ruling legalizing SSM in the state. For the first time ever, Pew Research found that a minority of American adults (49%) opposed SSM. 1

Late 2008: Jay McDonough published a fascinating graph on his "swimming freestyle" weblog titled: "Gay marriage will be legal by 2012." He incorporated data from many dozens of national polls.

The graph is too tiny to read clearly. It shows the decline in opposition to SSM (in red), the rise in support for SSM (in blue) and the stagnation of the the number of "don't knows, from 1986 to 2006. The vertical axis runs from 0 to 100%. The horizontal line half-way up the graph is the 50% support level. 2

See below for an updated graph with 2012 data added.

2009-APR: A Washington Post/ABC poll in became the first major poll to report that more American adults say they support SSM (49%) than oppose it (46%). The blue and red lines have crossed, at least for one poll at one point in time. However the margin of error on most polls is ±3 percentage points, so this one piece of data may have been a fluke. We estimated at the time that It will probably take a few years before polls consistently showed more support than opposition to SSM. 3

2010-AUG-06: A separate poll was conducted by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics over five days starting on this date. It also showed that most American adults support SSM.

  • Responding to the question: "Do you think gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid?" the results were:
    Yes 49%; No 51%; Unsure or no response: 0%. A 2 percentage point margin.

  • Responding to the question: "Do you think gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid?" the results were:
    Yes 52%; No 46%; Unsure or no response: 2%. A 6 percentage point margin. 5

Unfortunately, the poll only involved only about 500 randomly selected subjects. Thus the margin of error is ±4.5%. We hoped that a repeat of the poll will be scheduled for the near future in order to firm up the data.

Two months later, we asked the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) -- the leading group in the U.S. who is working to deny marriage to same-sex couples -- for their opinion on the above graph. We didn't expect any response from them. As of the latest update to this essay in late 2011-MAR, our expectations have been confirmed: no reply or acknowledgment of our Email has been received.

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2011-MAR-17: The Washington Post published the following graph showing the results of their joint poll with ABC News. Supporters of SSM were 53% compared with 44% opposed -- a 9 percentage point margin:

Washington Post graph

The survey was taken among a representative sample of 1,005 adults. The margin of error is ±3.5 percentage points. 6 More details on this poll.

2011-APR-06: New York state poll on SSM is completed:

We normally don't report on state results, but the data for New York State is so remarkable, we are listing it here:

The Sienna College Research Institute sampled 777 New York state registered voters, for a Margin of Error of ±3.5%.

Population group
Support SSM
Oppose SSM
Don't know/no answer
All voters
58%
36%
6%
Democrats
65%
29%
6%
Republicans
45
48
7
Independent/Other
61
34
5
White
62%
32%
6%
Black
46
45
9
Latino
54
45
3
18-34 years-of-age
74%
22%
4%
35-54
63
33
4
55+
45
46
10
Roman Catholic
59%
35%
6%
Jewish
56
41
3
Protestant
41
50
9
Other
78
17
5

The results showed unusually high support for SSM. The poll broke many records in comparison with previous state and national polls in the U.S.:

  • A 22% margin of support among all voters.
  • A 30% margin among Whites.
  • A majority support by Blacks.
  • 59% support among Roman Catholics. This is the highest of any organized religious group in the state. It showed a massive rejection of the Catholic hierarchy's teaching by the laity.
  • 74% support by young adult voters.
  • 78% -- the largest support of any recognized group -- among non-Judeo-Christians, a group that lumps together Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, Scientologists, etc. 8

These results caused David Badash, a writer for The New Civil Rights Movement, to title his article on the poll: "Is There Anyone Left In New York Who Does Not Support Same Sex Marriage?" 9 The answer is yes: conservative Protestants oppose SSM by significant degree. Also Republicans and persons over the age of 54 oppose SSM by a small percentage (by 3 and 1 percentage points; both are within the margin of error).

Looking at this poll, it becomes obvious that if the Republican party continues to tie their political future to a policy of oppressing the LGBT community, they will commit slow political suicide. These results show that adults under the age of 34 were 74% in favor of SSM, and 22% opposed -- more than a 3 to 1 ratio. Meanwhile, those over 54 years-of-age were a statistical dead heat at 45% in favor and 46% opposed. If the Republican party continues to be anti-LGBT, their voter support over the next decades will be very seriously eroded in New York State, and eventually across the entire U.S.

On 2011-MAY-11, we sent a request to the National Organization for Marriage -- the leading group attempting to deprive same-sex couples of the opportunity to marry -- asking for their comments on the above trends, so that we could include their thoughts here. One month later, there was, as expected, no response.

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2012-MAY-09: Nate Silver's "FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right" blog regularly combines a massive number of data points extracted from poll results listed at pollingreport.com, the General Social Survey, and other sources. He produces graphs like the following showing data from the late 1980s -- when support was only of the order of 11% and opposition was about 73% -- to the present time when support outnumbers opposition. 4

Polls on same-sex marriage since 1988 4

Needless to say, these data do not necessarily translate into results in plebiscites or other citizen initiatives, for a variety of reasons:

  • Often those opposed to marriage equality feel more strongly and are thus more likely to turn out and vote than those who favor equality.

  • Sometimes, other questions appear on the ballot like personhood amendments, education matters, etc. that will encourage more conservative voters to go to the polling booths, where they will also vote negatively on marriage equality.

  • Referendums are often preceded by many months of fear-based TV ads that temporarily sway many voters against marriage equality.

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Related essay:

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Referencesused:

  1. "Gay Marriage Is Back On The Radar For Republicans, Evangelicals But Overall Opposition to Gay Marriage is Less Than in 2004," Pew Research Center, 2008-JUN-12, at: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/
  2. Jay McDonough. "Gay marriage will be legal by 2012," Swimming Freestyle blog, at: http://www.swimmingfreestyle.net/
  3. Domenico Montanaro, "Poll shows support for gay marriage," First Read, 2009-APR-30, at: http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/
  4. Nate Silver, "Support for gay marriage outweighs opposition in polls, Five-ThirtyEight Blog, 2012-MAY-09, at: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/
  5. "Same-sex marriage, gay rights," PollingReport.com, as at 2010-AUG-13, at: http://www.pollingreport.com/
  6. Sandhya Somashekhar and Peyton Craighill, "Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says," Washington Post, 2011-MAR-17, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  7. Nate Silver, "Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage Appears to Shift at Accelerated Pace," FiveThirtyEight.com, 2010-AUG-12.
  8. "Q 19: Making same sex marriage legal in New York State," Page 4, Siena College Research Institute, 2011-APR-04/06, at: http://www.siena.edu/
  9. David Badash, "Is There Anyone Left In New York Who Does Not Support Same Sex Marriage?," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2011-APR-11, at: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/
  10. "In Gay Marriage Debate, Both Supporters and Opponents See Legal Recognition as 'Inevitable'," Pew Research Center, 2013-JUN-06, at: http://www.people-press.org/

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Site navigation:

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

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Copyright © 2008 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2013-JUN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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