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Introduction: U.S. polls on marriage by same-sex couples.

Part 1:

1994 to 2017: Overview of public
opinion polls
. 2015-APR: Support
for gay marriage among faith groups.
Impact of the Supreme Court's ruling.


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LGBT refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and
transsexuals. SSM refers to gay marriage (a.k.a. same-sex marriage

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yes/no symbol 1994 to 2011: Early polls on marriage by same-sex couples

  • 1994: The first poll on this topic showed that marriage equality was supported by only about 27% of the U.S. population and was opposed by about 68%. Five percent were uncertain or didn't answer. Subsequent polls show a gradual increase in support and decrease in opposition. Much of this is a generational effect as a high percentage of older teens approve of marriage equality as they enter the voting pool, even as older seniors who disapprove leave.
  • 2011: For the first time, polls consistently began to show that a plurality of American adults favored marriage equality. The previous trend of increasing support and lowering opposition continued up to the present time.

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2015 to 2017: Results from four recent national polls show increasing support for marriage equality:

A number of highly regarded recent national polls indicate high and increasing support -- along with fading levels of opposition -- to same-sex marriage: 1

  • The 2015-JAN/FEB Human Rights Campaign poll found that 60% of likely voters favor same-sex marriage, while 37% are opposed. The same poll also found that 46% of respondents personally know a married same-sex couple. 2

  • A 2015-FEB CNN/ORC poll found that 63% of Americans believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, while 36% are opposed. 3 These opinions are held strongly, because only 1% of those surveyed had no opinion or did not answer the question! In the four and a half years since 2010-AUG, support had risen by 15 percentage points among Republicans to reach 42%, and had risen by19 percentage points among Democrats to reach 75%. This places the Republican Party nationally in an awkward position. Since their platform still calls for a ban on same-sex marriage, they risk alienating almost half of their party supporters. This conflict is expected to intensify in the future as increasing support develops for marriage equality.

  • A 2016-FEB/MAR Wall Street Journal poll found that 59% of Americans favor same-sex marriage. They also report that support among Republicans has risen by 13 percentage points from 27% in 2013 to 40% in 2015-MAR. Support among Democrats has reached 74%. 4

    Wall Street Journal polls over the previous 11 years have shown a remarkable increase in support for marriage equality: essentially doubling from 30% in 2004-MAR to 59% in 2015-MAR. Associated with this increase is a major reduction of those opposed to marriage equality from 62% to 33% over the same interval. Another meaningful polling result is the percentage of those polled who do not "... personally know or work with someone who is gay or lesbian." That percentage dropped from 35% in 2004 to 22% in 2015. People with minority sexual orientations who are increasingly coming out of "the closet" is probably driving acceptance of same-sex marriage more than any other factor.  5

  • A 2017-MAY Gallup poll found that national support for gay marriage reached a new high: 64%. This number is inching closer to two out of three U.S. adults.

    The same poll found that 74% of Democrats, 71% of Independents and 47% of Republicans support marriage equality. 6 This places the Republican Party leadership in an awkward position. They currently do not approve of marriage equality. Whether they maintain this position or reverse it in the future, they will alienate about half of their membership.

    Since support for same-sex marriage drops with age, these numbers are expected to continue to rise in the future. In addition, the poll found that 72% of U.S. adults favored the legalization of same-gender sexual relationships -- a behavior legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court back in 2003 by their Lawrence v. Texas ruling.

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During 2015-MAR, Janet Hook, writing for the Wall Street Journal said:

"The findings help explain why same-sex marriage is receding in prominence as a political issue, even among Republicans. Some likely Republican presidential candidates have tried to defuse or sidestep the issue by, for example, deferring to states to set marriage policy." 4

The problem with this approach is that it probably would take until the 2030's before a significant majority of the voters in the Deep South would favor marriage equality, That would be a long time for same-sex couples to wait to have access to such a fundamental right as marriage.

Back in 2014, there was a belief by some commentators that the U.S. Supreme Court would consider legalizing same-sex marriage across the entire United States (the District of Columbia, 50 states, and five territories) if:

  1. A significant majority of states had already made marriage available to same-sex couples.

  2. A significant majority of Americans live in places where same-sex couples can marry.

  3. A sizeable majority of Americans support allowing SSM.

  4. There was a "circuit split." That is, multiple U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals had issued opposing rulings on SSM.

By early 2015, all four of these criteria were met:

  1. 37 states out of 50, plus the District of Columbia allowed same-sex marriage. Also the city of St. Louis and three counties in Missouri issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

  2. About 72% of Americans live where same-sex couples can obtain a marriage license.

  3. A number of national polls find significant national support for same-sex marriage . The average of the above three major polls confirmed by early 2015-MAR that SSM support exceeded 60%.

  4. The 4th, 9th and 10th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal had ruled that state bans on SSM were unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit ruled that they were constitutional. A circuit split had happened.

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2015-JAN: U.S. Supreme Court accepted an appeal from four states:

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted appeals involving same-sex marriage lawsuits from four states -- Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee -- via the 6th Circuit. Hearings were scheduled for 2015-APR-28. A final ruling is expected in late 2015-June or early July. There is a possibility that the high court may legalize same-sex marriage across the entire country. However, such a decision is not a sure thing. Over the past three decades, every High Court Justice who left office has been replaced by a more conservative Justice. Thus the Court has gradually moved in the conservative direction.

A CNN poll asked a particularly meaningful question during their 2015-MAR poll: whether same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. They found that 63% of adults believe such these couples do have that right.

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2015-APR: a Public Religion Research Institute poll on support of marriage equality among various faith groups:

Marriage equality is supported by various LGBT, liberal faith groups and and civil rights organizations. They are primarily opposed by denominations, parachurch groups, and social organizations from the conservative wing of Christianity. The root cause of this conflict appears to be ambiguity among six "clobber passages" in the Bible which are interpreted very differently by sincere, intelligent, thoughtful theologians from the conservative and liberal wings of Christianity.

Most national polls on the topic of same-sex marriage involve about 1,000 randomly selected adults. In contrast, during 2015-APR, the Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI) conducted a massive poll among 40,571 U.S. adults. They sorted results by faith group and religion:

They found support for same-sex marriage varied widely among the following faith groups. Those with little acceptance of gay marriage are:

  • 12% of Jehovah's Witnesses support marriage equality, as do

  • 27% of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. LDS, Mormons), probably with some members of other Mormon denominations included,

  • 28% of White evangelical Protestants,

  • 35% of Hispanic Protestants,

  • 39% of Black Protestants,

  • 41% of other non-white Protestants,

  • 42% of Muslims, 7

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This introduction continues in Part 2.

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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. "Public opinion of same-sex marriage in the United States, Wikipedia, as on 2015-MAR-10, at:
  2. Steven Shepard, "Poll: 60 percent of likely voters back gay marriage,"Politico, 2015-FEB-13, at":
  3. Jennifer Agiesta, "Poll: Obama's approval ratings stagnant despite economy," CNN, 2015-FEB-19, at:
  4. "Support for Gay Marriage Hits All-Time High — WSJ/NBC News Poll," Wall Street Journal, 2015-MAR-09, at:
  5. "NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey," Wall Street Journal, 2015-MAR-01/05, at:
  6. , "Poll: 64 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage," Politico, 2017-MAY-15, at:
  7. Robert P. Jones, "Attitudes on Same-sex Marriage by Religious Affiliation and Denominational Family, Public Religion Research Institute, 2015-APR-22, at:

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Home > "Hot" religious topics > LGBT issues > Polling data > here

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Copyright © 2001 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2017-MAY-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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