U.S. public opinion polls
2009 to 2016:
Polling data showing gradual increase
in support for same-sex marriage
(SSM, gay marriage) &
2009 to 2016: Public support in the U.S. for same-sex marriages (SSM) and civil unions:
This section lists the results of many public opinion surveys that evaluated the support of, and
opposition to, SSM by a random sampling of American adults or registered voters. They are grouped by polling agency.
Unfortunately, results are vary significantly on the precise question asked,
the wording of any questions that are asked before the SSM query, the time of day that the subject was
phoned, the type of phone (cell and/or landline), etc. Thus the findings are not all strictly comparable. However, long-term trends in the direction of increased support, and reduced opposition, to SSM are obvious.
Of particular interest are:
- 2009-APR: A national Washington Post/ABC poll was the first to suggest that a plurality of American adults may support same-sex marriage: 49% in favor; 46% opposed. However, the margin of of 3 percentage points was very small, and within the sampling error.
- 2010-AUG: The national Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll was the first major poll to show that most American adults support SSM. Asked whether "gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to marry..." the results were 52% in favor, 46% opposed; 2% unsure or no response, for a margin of 6 percentage points.
- 2011-MAR-10-13: A Washington Post/ABC News national poll reported that 53% of American adults supported same-sex marriage; 44% were opposed. This is a margin of 9 percentage points in favor of SSM! This result was confirmed by other polls conducted shortly afterwards.
- 2011-APR-03: A remarkable survey in New York state -- one of the more liberal states in the U.S. -- showed that 58% of registered voters supported SSM while only 36% were opposed -- a margin of 22 percentage points! Support among Democrats was 65%, Whites: 62%; young voters: 74%; Roman Catholics 59%; and non Judeo-Christians: 78%. Protestants and Republicans remained heavily opposed to marriage equality.
- 2012-MAY: A Washington Post/ABC poll found that opposition to SSM was 39%. As the Washington Post said: "Gay marriage opposition hits new low" at less than 40% for the first time in a national poll.
- 2012-JUN-06: CNN/ORC released the findings of a national poll showing that 54% of American adults believe that same-sex marriage (SSM) should be legalized while only 42% are opposed! That is a margin of 12 percentage points, the largest that we had seen up until that time in a national poll.
- 2012-JUL-25 to AUG-05: A Washington Post / Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that the CNN/ORC poll was not a fluke. The former found that 53% of American adults supported same-sex marriage; 42% were opposed. This poll found a margin of 11 percentage points in favor of SSM! The size of the poll -- involving 3,130 persons -- was unusually large, making a margin of error of just ±1.75 percentage points! This is a very reliable result!
- 2014-MAR: Support reached a new all-time high of 59% in a Washington Post/ABC poll!
- 2016-MAY: Gallup found that support for gay marriage exceeded 6 out of 10 American adults. Their poll found that 61% believed that "marriages between same-sex couples should ... be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages."
- 2011 to late 2016: The "I Side With" web site conducted an U.S. Internet poll about same-sex marriage:
They started the poll on 2011-DEC-12. Almost five years later, it is still collecting responses. The question asked is simply:
"Do you support the legalization of same sex marriage?"
As of 2016-DEC-05, the poll had obtained over 31.7 million reponses and was still accumulating votes:
Answers to the question were:
- Yes: 61%
- Yes, and take the government out of marriage and instead make it a religious decision: 3%.
- Yes, but allow churches the right to refuse same-sex ceremonies: 3%
- Total Yes vote: 67%
- No: 28%
- No; allow civil unions but don't call it marriage: 4%.
- No, marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman: 1%
- Total No: 33%
Breakdown by party: Democrats were 94% in favor and 6% opposed of marriage equality: a 16:1 ratio. Republicans were 34% in favor and 66% opposed: about a 1:2 ratio.
Breakdown by a sampling of states: Alabama: 49% in favor to 51% opposed; Alaska: 64% to 36%; California: 73% to 27%; Florida: 64% to 36%; Hawaii: 70% to 30%; Massachusetts: 83% to 17%; Mississippi: 46% to 54%; Texas: 59% to 41%; Utah: 55% to 45%. The results from Massachusetts show the greatest support for marriage equality. That is probably because it was the first state in the U.S. to legalize gay marriages; that happened in 2004-MAY. So, the citizens in that state have had the longest time to observe the effects that marriage equality have had on their state. The divorce rate there has remained the lowest of any state in the nation.
Unfortunately, although the number of persons responding is incredibly high for a poll, the accuracy of the results is suspect, because the responses do not come from a random selection of American adults. Only those visitors with an Internet connection, who landed on that web site, and a sufficient motivation to vote would have had their results included.
Their web site monitors people who vote more than once, and deletes any earlier responses.
The suggestion to "take the government out of marriage" is not a practical option because the government has different tax structures for single and married adults. So, it is necessary for the government to define who can marry in order before it can administer those programs.
The suggestion to allow churches the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples is not a meaningful option because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already guarantees that the federal, state, and municipal governments cannot interfere with decisions by individual churches.
This is the first poll that we have seen that has exceeded a 2:1 response in favor of marriage equality nationally.
Reasons why support for gay marriage in the U.S. has steadilyincreased over the years:
The public response to gay marriage has been similar to the earlier trends for interracial marriage back in the late 20th century. In both cases, there was a gradual increase in support by about one percentage point a year and a gradual decrease in opposition by about the same amount. However, for gay marriage, there seems to have been a speedup in the process during the early 2010's, of a little over two percentage points per year. We speculate that this is due, in part, to:
- Millions of lesbians, gays and bisexuals who have risked harassment, physical attacks, raw hatred, and animus by coming out of "the closet" to friends and family. Surveys have shown that when an individual finds that a friend or family member is non-heterosexual, many radically change their attitude towards acceptance of sexual minorities.
- More teens knowingly have gay friends and members of their family, and so have become knowledgeable about sexual orientation. Meanwhile senior citizens, who tend to be more traditional in beliefs are dying off. Over the decades, a gradual generational shift occurs
- The extensive debate that lead up to the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the military caused people to think about gays.
- Increased public awareness of the extensive harassment of LGBT students, and of the resulting high level of suicides by gay students,
- A declaration by four federal courts in Massachusetts and California that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
- Several main Democratic political leaders, including President Obama, giving personal statements in support of marriage equality,
- Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that:
- During 2013-JUN, in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry, overturned Prop. 8 -- the public initiative that temporarily prevented SSMs in California.
- During 2016-JUN, in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized gay marriage across the United States, with the exception of American Samoa. Most people in that territory are American residents, not American citizens. Thus the rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court do not necessarily apply there.
- The sudden switch by many conservative Christian organization to reduce their activity opposing same-sex marriage and switch their emphasis to discriminate against transgender persons and transsexuals.
Copyright © 2001 TO 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2016-DEC-05
Author: B.A. Robinson