PORTLAND, Maine — A new statewide poll in Maine published Tuesday found that 57 percent of the state’s voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage, and that only 35 percent remain opposed.
The poll, commissioned by the Portland Press Herald, also showed that support for the marriage equality is especially strong in the southern and coastal areas of the state, and among young adults, women and Democrats.
The 22-point lead is good news for backers of the upcoming same-sex ballot initiative, however political analysts noted that the margin of support is almost certain to be much smaller by the November 6 election day, reported the Press-Herald.
James Melcher, associate professor of political science at the University of Maine in Farmington cautioned that “voters may not always say how they truly feel about gay rights, and they often are more supportive of change several months before an election than they are in the voting booth.”
“More than most election issues, that’s an issue where you have to take (polling) numbers with a grain of salt. I think those numbers will be closer on Election Day,” he said adding, “That said, I think there’s been a lot of momentum in favor of same-sex marriage around the country,” he told the Press-Herald.
The new poll shows broad support. More than 60 percent of voters in most age groups — including 18- to 34-year-olds and 55 to 64-year-olds — said they would vote yes if the election were held now. However, those voters who were 65 and older split on the question — with 44 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed.
“The evidence continues to grow that Maine voters support allowing all loving, committed couples to receive a marriage license,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage in a statement.
Similarly, a Maine People’s Resource Center poll from April pegged support at 58.2 percent with 39.9 percent in opposition.
A Public Policy Polling survey in March found that 54 percent say same-sex marriage should be legal versus 41 percent who say it shouldn’t.
“These are some of the strongest numbers in support of marriage that we have seen anywhere in the country,” McTighe said. “But supporters of the freedom to marry cannot grow complacent. There’s a lot of work still to do and we know that the attacks from opponents of marriage are coming.”
Polls that were conducted in the months before Maine’s gay-marriage referendum in November 2009 suggested that the same-sex marriage law passed by the Legislature might survive a repeal effort, but voters ultimately struck down the law, 53 percent to 47 percent.
The Press Herald polling data suggests that the controversial wording of the ballot question does not significantly change polling results on the issue according to political analysts.
Maine’s Secretary of State Charlie Summers shortened and simplified the question submitted by gay-marriage advocates to say: “Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Referendum organizers and other anti-gay marriage opponents claim that question leaves out a key part of the law that protects religious freedom by saying clergy members wouldn’t be forced to perform same-sex weddings.