U.S. public opinion polls
Support and opposition among American adults
towards same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions.
Status of same-sex marriages (SSM) and civil unions:
As of the end of 2012, same-sex marriages are available in ten jurisdictions (9 states and the District of Columbia) in the U.S. and in about nine other
countries, including Canada's 7 provinces and 3 territories and the country of Argentina.
In addition, SSMs were available in California during part of
2008, but the passage of
Proposition 8 by an very slim majority of voters in 2008-NOV terminated new
SSMs. About 20,000 existing same-sex married couples were allowed to continue
being married. A lawsuit is attempting to declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional and to restore access to marriage to loving, committed same-sex couples. If it succeeds, it will more than double the number of same-sex couples permitted to marry. If it fails, then a second Proposition is inevitable in 2014-NOV. Assuming the present support and opposition to SSM continues in that state, Prop. 8 should be repealed.
Some jurisdictions limit SSM to residents. Other places, like Canada, allow both residents and
visitors to marry.
In addition, six states and 6 countries allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, domestic partnerships,
or similar arrangements. In the U.S., these couples receive some or all of the rights, privileges,
and obligations that the state gives to married couples.
Whatever recognition, protections, benefits, given by states to same-sex couples and their children, all are denied over 1,050 federal benefits that are automatically given to married opposite-sex couples. This is due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. They are also denied what to some is the most important right: having the state and federal government refer to their relationship as a marriage.
This section lists the results of many surveys into the support of, and
opposition to, SSM by American adults. They are grouped by polling agency.
Unfortunately, results are vary significantly on the precise question asked,
the wording of questions 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 more American adults may support same-sex marriage (49%) than opposed it (46%). 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 definitely 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!
- 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.
- 2011-MAY-05-08: A national Gallup Inc. poll found essentially the same results as did the earlier Washington Post/ABC News poll: 53% support and 45% opposition for a margin of 8 percentage points. The sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
- 2012-MAR-07-10: A Washington Post / Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 52% of American adults supported same-sex marriage; 43% were opposed. This is another poll with a margin of 9 percentage points in favor of SSM!
- 2012-MAY: A Washington Post/ABC poll found that 53% of adults favor SSM, while 39 were opposed. 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 have ever seen in a national poll. There was, as expected, the usual gulf between Republican and Democratic voters, as well as between younger adults and the elderly. This poll was taken a few weeks after the President, Vice-President and Educational Secretary voiced their personal support of SSM. In addition, more than 75% of both supporters and opponents of SSM feel strongly about the issue.
- 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 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!
Trends in support and opposition to same-sex marriage have been similar to the earlier trends for interracial marriage back in the late 20th century. For decades, there was a gradual increase in support by about 1 percentage point a year and a gradual decrease in opposition by the same amount. However, for SSM, there seems to have been a speedup in the process during the early 2010's, of about 2.3 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, animus, and raw hatred 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 sexual minorities in a positive direction.
- The extensive debate leading to the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the military,
- Increased public awareness of the extensive harassment of LGBT students, and of the resulting suicides by gay students,
- A declaration by four federal courts in Massachusetts or California that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional on multiple grounds,
- Several main political leaders, including President Obama, giving personal statements in support of marriage equality,
- Rulings by a federal District Court, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the full appeals court that Proposition 8 -- the public initiative to outlaw SSM in California -- was unconstitutional on multiple grounds.
Raising the public awareness of the lack of equality for LGBT persons, and the consequences of discrimination and harassment might have resulted in more adults discussing and studying the treatment of LGBTs. This, in turn, may have caused a change in public opinion of SSM.
Topics on same-sex marriage (SSM) covered in this section:
Copyright © 2001 TO 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2013-MAR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson