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Religious Tolerance logo

Registerd domestic partnerships in Washington State

2009: Public opinion polls on Referendum 71

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Referendum 71 (R-71) asked voters to either endorse or reject Senate Bill 5688 which had become law earlier in 2009. It extends earlier rights given to registered partners so that they receive the same rights privileges and obligations as married couples. Registered partnerships are open to adult same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples in which one partner is 62 years-of-age or older.

The usual crowds are involved:

bulletSocial and religious conservatives oppose the bill and thus oppose equal rights for same-sex couples.

bulletGLBT groups, civil liberties groups, religious liberals, secularists, and many large businesses support the referendum.

Supporters of equal rights have outspent conservatives in their advertising budgets.

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2009-OCT-06: Survey USA/ KING-TV poll shows support for R-71:

Survey USA conducted a poll of 1,050 adults in Washington State between OCT-03 and OCT-05 -- one month before the Referendum. margin of error is ±4.3%. 1,2

They found that 45% of the likely voters said that they are "certain to vote to approve Referendum 71" while 42% would reject it and 13% -- a relatively large percentage for this type of vote -- are undecided.

There was an unusually wide gender bias: Men rejected R-71 by a 4-point margin while women support it by a 12-point margin.

Among other results is a strange near symmetry that shows the bipolar cultural division in the state -- similar to that seen elsewhere in the U.S.:

bullet72% of Democrats support R-71; 72% of Republicans reject it.
bulletIn metropolitan Seattle, R-71 is approved by a 18-point margin; in Eastern Washington, a rural area, it is rejected by 18-points; in the rural areas of Western Washington, likely voters has a 8-point-margin in opposition.

Results by age differ from most polls. Usually, young adults are strongly in favor, while those over 65-years-of-age are strongly opposed, with those between 35 and 65 on a downward slope of support with age. But these results were quite different:

Expected vote Aged 18 to 34 Aged 35 to 49 Aged 50 to 64 Aged 65 +
Yes 58% 35% 48% 44%
No 36% 45% 42% 40%
Uncertain 6% 20% 10% 16%

We don't recall another anywhere where senior citizens were in favor of equal rights for homosexuals and bisexuals. However, this case is specia, because the law allows senior citizens to have additional privileges.

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2009-OCT-26: Washington University Poll shows support for R-71:

Past polls conducted by Washington University revealed a gradual increase in favor of domestic partnership rights and a decrease in opposition:

Year Favor equal rights Opposed to rights Undecided
2006 58% 26% 16%
2007 59% 22% 19%
2008 66% 21% 13%

The social research school at the University of Washington conducted a poll about Referendum 71. They polled 724 registered voters between 2009-OCT-14 and 26. The margin of error is ±3.6%.

bullet56% of registered voters support R-71 while 39% oppose.

bullet57% of likely voters support R-71 while 38% oppose.

According to Brad Shannon of The Olympian:

"Matt Barreto, a political science professor at the UW and co-director of the school’s Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality, said the R-71 poll is consistent with the trend of growing public support for same-sex relationships he has found in other polling since 2006. Barreto predicted a 'large victory' for R-71." 3

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References used in this essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Results of Survey USA Election Poll #15877," Survey USA, 2009-OCT-06, at:
  2. Dominic Holden, "Poll: R-71 has narrow lead, I-1033 passing," SLOG News and Arts, 2009-OCT-06, at:
  3. Brad Shannon, "R-71 ahead, poll shows...,"  The Olympian, 2009-OCT-28, at:

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Copyright © 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-OCT-30
Latest update: 2011-NOV-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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