PRINCETON, NJ -- A majority of Americans, 60%, say President Barack Obama's newly announced support for same-sex marriage will make no difference to their vote. Twice as many say it will make them less likely to vote for Obama as say more likely, though roughly half of the "less likely" group are Republicans who probably would not support Obama anyway.
The results are based on a May 10 USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in response to Obama's May 9 announcement that he supports legalizing gay marriage. Obama is the first president to publicly support gay marriage while in office. The poll finds 51% of Americans approving of his position, essentially matching the 50% of Americans who support gay marriage in general, and similar to his 49% overall job approval rating.
The six in 10 Americans who say Obama's position on same-sex marriage will not affect their vote could be an underestimate because Republicans disproportionately make up the group who say they are less likely to vote for Obama, and Democrats disproportionately make up the group who say they are more likely to vote for him. It is probably safe to assume, given the strong relationship between party identification and vote choice, that most of those voters would have voted for or against Obama regardless of his view on gay marriage.
Partisans' responses to the question may therefore indicate more of a change in the intensity of their vote choice as opposed to an actual change in the candidate they support.
Thus, a key to assessing how the change in Obama's view of same-sex marriage will affect his vote share this fall would be to look at its effect on independents, and on Democrats and Republicans whose views are different from the majority of their party.
Specifically, 23% of independents and 10% of Democrats say it makes them less likely to vote for Obama, while a smaller 11% of independents and 2% of Republicans say it makes them more likely to vote for Obama. Those figures suggest Obama's gay marriage position is likely to cost him more independent and Democratic votes than he would gain in independent and Republican votes, clearly indicating that his new position is more of a net minus than a net plus for him. However, those figures also underscore that it is a relatively limited group of voters -- about one in three independents and fewer than one in 10 Republicans or Democrats -- whose votes may change as a result of Obama's new stance on gay marriage.
It is important to note that the poll's results give a sense of Americans' immediate reactions to Obama's position. It is possible that the impact of Obama's same-sex marriage position will ultimately be greater or lesser, depending on the attention paid to the same-sex marriage issue during the duration of the presidential campaign.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 10, 2012, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.