Ohio voters are split on the idea of same-sex marriage, but they’re far more likely to support it if know religious institutions won’t be forced to wed gay and lesbian couples, a new poll finds.
The poll of 1,011 registered voters released Thursday found 52 percent would vote for, and 38 percent would vote against, a proposed Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment to the Ohio Constitution once they’re read its language.
Asked simply whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, Ohioans were divided: 47 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed.
“Ohio voters like concepts, but they vote on specifics,” said Ian James, executive director of Freedom Ohio, which commissioned the poll taken Dec. 6-8 by Public Policy Polling. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
“They want to make sure people can go to the courthouses to get married. But it’s very clear Ohioans want to protect religious freedom.”
Freedom Ohio is collecting signatures to put the Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom Amendment on the November 2014 state ballot. James said the group has passed the 386,000 required but wants to turn in 1 million signatures to Secretary of State Jon Husted.
The poll boosts the argument of those who back a 2014 vote and say that Ohio has changed dramatically since 2004, when a marriage ban was voted into the state constitution with 62 percent support.
But it also gives ammunition to skeptics within the LGBT community by underscoring the need for a well-funded campaign that can get the support-boosting specifics to voters.
Freedom Ohio has raised barely $56,000 since it started in 2012 and has survived on more than $700,000 in free help from James, a veteran political strategist, and others.
James said he’s not sure how much a campaign will cost – “Will it cost $10 million? Will it cost $15 million? I don’t know the answer to that question right now” – but he said he’s certain donors will come aboard.
“They want to see it’s a winnable issue,” he said.
The poll will help him make that case to donors, but he said it wasn’t commissioned to produce a desired result. Public Policy Polling is considered a Democratic-leaning firm, but a Fordham University study said its results were the most reliable of the 2012 presidential race.
Freedom Ohio had two outside pollsters – Democrat Jim Kitchens and Republican Robert Carpenter review the questions and results.
Among its other findings:
- 57 percent of women favored the amendment when told its specifics. Men remained split, though, 46 percent for and 46 percent against.
Asian-American voters were most likely to support the amendment: 58 percent, to 20 percent opposed. African-American voters support the amendment, 56 percent to 35 percent opposed. White voters favored the amendment 52 percent to 39 percent. Latino voters were the most opposed: 24 in favor and 63 percent opposed.
People in their 30s are the strongest amendment supporters, 61 percent to 31 percent opposed. Voters 18-29 favor the amendment, 54 percent to 42 percent. Voters in their 50s (54 percent) were more likely supporters than those in their 40s (52 percent). Support was under 50 percent among voters over 60.
Urban (63 percent) and suburban voters (60 percent) are far more likely to support the amendment than small-town (46 percent) and rural voters (42 percent).
Geographically, the amendment has the most support in Columbus and Central Ohio, where 57 percent are in favor and 37 percent oppose. A total of 54 percent support the amendment in Cincinnati and southwestern Ohio, and support is at 52 percent in Toledo and northwestern Ohio. It’s below 50 percent in Cleveland and northeastern Ohio (49 percent in favor, 36 percent opposed) and in southeastern Ohio (47 percent).
76 percent of strong Democrats and 63 percent of those who lean Democratic support the amendment; 54 percent of strong Republicans oppose and 36 percent support the amendment, while 49 percent of those who lean Republican support the amendment and 43 percent oppose it.
44 percent statewide said they believe marriage equality is inevitable.