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Poll finds dramatic shift in public opinion, support for marriage equality

Poll finds dramatic shift in public opinion, support for marriage equality

Support for marriage equality for gays and lesbians has reached a new high, marking a dramatic change in public opinion on the subject over the past decade.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans now say same-sex marriage should be legal, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday.

That number has grown sharply from previous ABC News/Washington Post polls, from a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, advancing to a narrow majority for the first time only two years ago, and now up again to a significant majority for the first time.

Most Americans, moreover, say the U.S. Constitution should trump state laws on gay marriage, a question now before the U.S. Supreme Court. And – in another fundamental shift – just 24 percent now see homosexuality as a choice, down from 40 percent nearly 20 years ago. It’s a view that closely relates to opinions on the legality of same-sex marriage.

According to the survey, sharp differences across groups remain, but there have been large advances across the board:

In one striking gap, gay marriage is supported by a vast 81 percent of adults younger than 30, compared with just 44 percent of seniors. But that’s up by more than 10 points in both groups just since March 2011, and by more than 20 points in both groups since 2004, the low point for gay marriage support in ABC/Post polls.

On the political front, 72 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents favor legalizing gay marriage, vs. far fewer Republicans, 34 percent. Still that’s up by 18 points among Republicans since 2004, as well as by 24 and 29 points among independents and Democrats, respectively.

Similarly, while just 33 percent of conservatives support gay marriage, that’s up by 23 points from nine years ago. Support encompasses more than seven in 10 liberals and moderates alike, with the greatest growth among moderates, 31 points higher now than in 2004.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll also suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court should determine the legality of same-sex marriage; by nearly 2-l, 64-33 percent, respondents said marriage equality “should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution” rather than by each state making its own law on the issue.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments March 26 in a challenge to Proposition 8, California’s 2008 voter approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in nine states and the District of Columbia; thirty-one states ban same-sex marriage by constitutional amendment.

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