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Poll: Two-thirds of Democrats now support marriage equality

Survey says Obama endorsement has limited impact
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
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Reports that the Democratic Party may add support for marriage equality to its party platform are in keeping with a significant shift of opinion on the issue among Democrats nationwide, as support for same-sex marriage among Democrats continues to increase.

Just four years ago, in 2008, only half (50%) of Democrats favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 42% were opposed. Support for gay marriage among Democrats has jumped to 65 percent today, more than double the percentage that is opposed (29 percent).

According to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, partisan divide over marriage equality continues to widen.

Among Republicans, only 24 percent now favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, which is only slightly higher than the percentage of Republicans who supported gay marriage in 2008 (19 percent). Independent support for gay marriage has grown substantially since 2008. More independents today (51 percent) favor than oppose (40 percent) same-sex marriage; four years ago independents were divided evenly (44 percent favor, 45 percent oppose).
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The survey also indicated little change in support for marriage equality since President Barack Obama announced his support on the issue in May.

Two consecutive national surveys conducted since May 9, when Obama made his announcement, show 48 percent in favor of allowing gay marriage and 44 percent opposed. This is virtually unchanged from a survey conducted in April, before the president’s statement.

But Obama’s announcement may have rallied the Democratic base – particularly liberal Democrats – to the issue. Democrats supported same-sex marriage by a 59 percent to 31 percent margin in April – that stands at 65 percent to 29 percent today. Most of this shift has come among liberal Democrats, 83 percent of whom now support sam-sex marriage, up from 73 percent earlier this year.

Among other the survey’s other major findings:

  • Blacks Remain Opposed: In the new survey, 51% of blacks oppose gay marriage, while 40% favor it. That is virtually unchanged since April, before Obama came out in support of gay marriage. Over the long-term, however, blacks have become much more supportive of gay marriage. In 2008, just 26% of blacks favored gay marriage.
  • Same-sex Adoption: Like support for gay marriage, support for allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children has increased in recent years. Currently, 52% favor and 42% oppose allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children. Four years ago, the public was divided over gay adoption (46% favored, 48% opposed).
  • Opinions about Nature of Homosexuality Change More Slowly:Currently, 41% say homosexuality is something people are born with, while 35% say it is a personal preference and 13% say it is something that develops because of the way people are brought up. While far more people say homosexuality is something people are born with than did so in the mid-1980s, these opinions have changed only modestly in recent years. In 2006, 36% said that homosexuality was something people are born with.
  • Religious Divisions over Gay Marriage: Just 22 percent of white evangelical Protestants favor gay marriage, while 73% are opposed. Black Protestants also oppose gay marriage, by a 54% to 38% margin. A majority of white non-Hispanic Catholics favor gay marriage, as do 50% of white mainline Protestants. Nearly three-quarters of the religiously unaffiliated support gay marriage.

The full report on the survey — conducted June 28-July 9, 2012, among 2,973 adults — including a slideshow on public opinion of same-sex marriage, is available on the Pew Forum’s website.

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