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Americans Still Oppose Gay Marriage

But only half favor a constitutional amendment to bar it

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are closely divided in their reactions to the sort of constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that produced considerable fireworks in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Asked whether the Constitution should be amended to define marriage as only between a man and woman -- a move that would preclude states from sanctioning same-sex marriages -- 50% of Americans say they would favor such an amendment, while 47% are opposed.

Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) had a heated exchange about a similarly worded amendment before it passed on a 10-8 party-line vote -- although it is expected to fall well short of the two-thirds support needed in the full Senate in order to take the next step toward becoming an amendment. While out of character for the Senate, the indecorous incident perhaps exemplifies the gulf in attitudes between Republicans and Democrats nationally on gay marriage.

According to Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 8-11, two-thirds of Republicans (66%) favor a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a heterosexual institution, while a majority of Democrats (55%) oppose this.

Although only half of all Americans favor a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, the same poll finds a solid majority (58%) opposed to granting such marriages the same legal rights as traditional marriages. Sharp cultural differences characterize these attitudes, with certain groups widely supportive and others widely opposed.

Attitudes Stable in Recent Years

There has been no appreciable change over the past two years in Americans' attitudes about legal recognition for same-sex marriage. As noted, about three in five (58%) still oppose it. Just 39% believe marriages between homosexuals should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages.

Current support is nearly identical to that found last year, and statistically similar to the 2004 results, but is significantly higher than was recorded a decade ago. In 1996, only 27% of Americans thought same-sex marriages deserved the same recognition as traditional marriages, while 68% were opposed.

Wording Change Doesn't Alter Result

The latest survey included a split-sample experiment to test the effect of replacing the word "homosexuals" -- a term many gay groups shun -- with the less controversial "same-sex couples" wording. The results are similar: the "same sex" wording yields 42% in favor of and 56% opposed to legal recognition of gay marriage.

Only Half Favor Amending Constitution

Americans are about evenly divided in their reactions to a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, a move that would bar marriages between same-sex couples. Exactly half of Americans are in favor of such an amendment, while 47% are opposed.

Gallup found somewhat higher support in March 2005 for this proposal (57%), but aside from that single finding, the average support level since 2003 has been about the same as it is today.

The lower support for a constitutional amendment, relative to Americans' opposition to legalizing gay marriage, comes from the fact that about a quarter of those who oppose making gay marriages legally valid (28%) nevertheless oppose a constitutional amendment banning them.

Sharp Cultural Divisions

As is seen with attitudes about gay rights more broadly, strong age and gender patterns exist in attitudes about gay marriage, with younger Americans and women being particularly supportive. As a result, young women are the biggest advocates of marriage rights for gays. A majority of women aged 18-49 say marriages between homosexual couples should be legally valid, compared with only about a third of older women and men of either age group.

Religion and politics are also strong determinants of attitudes on this subject. Highly religious Americans -- defined as those who attend their churches or other places of worship weekly -- are widely opposed to sanctioning gay marriages (77% say they should not be valid) while a majority of those who seldom or never attend church (51%) say they should be valid.

Democrats are nearly three times as likely as Republicans (53% vs. 19%) to say homosexual marriages should be legally valid, while independents fall closer to Democrats (45%).

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,002 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 8-11, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. 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.

29. Do you think marriages between homosexuals should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?

BASED ON 515 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

Should be
valid

Should not
be valid

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11 ^

39

58

4

2005 Aug 22-25

37

59

4

2004 May 2-4

42

55

3

1999 Feb 8-9

35

62

3

1996 Mar 15-17

27

68

5

^ Asked of a half sample

30. Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?

BASED ON 487 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

Should be
valid

Should not
be valid

No
opinion

2006 May 8-11 ^

42%

56

2

^ Asked of a half sample

31. Would you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman, thus barring marriages between gay or lesbian couples?

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

50

47

3

2005 Apr 29-May 1

53

44

3

2005 Mar 18-20

57

37

6

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

48

46

6

2004 May 2-4

51

45

4

2004 Mar 5-7

50

45

5

2004 Feb 9-12

53

44

3

2004 Feb 6-8 ^

47

47

6

2003 Jul 18-20

50

45

5

^ Asked of a half sample

Gallup

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/22882/Americans-Still-Oppose-Gay-Marriage.aspx
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