Same-sex marriage polls have been hotly debated in recent days, but a review of 10 recent major surveys confirms a consensus public opinion in favor of such unions.
Almost two decades ago, Gallup polled on the question of legalized same-sex marriage, and 27 percent of those surveyed thought same-sex marriages shouldn’t be legally valid.
Today, in an average of 10 recent polls compiled by Constitution Daily, 52 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legal, while 42 percent of people didn’t believe in the legality of such unions.
The polls we looked at included our own annual poll, done in conjunction with the Associated Press; surveys from Gallup, Quinnipiac, and Pew Research; and polls from Fox News, ABC, NBC, and CBS.
The controversy over recent polls has been partly about the wording of questions, including the use of the word “illegal” in questions about same-sex marriage.
The Family Research Council, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, has pointed out that Americans, in general, will vote against anything with an “illegal” connotation, and that word choice prejudiced the results.
In fact, the two polls showing the highest support for same-sex marriage did include the words “illegal” or “not legal” in their questioning.
But when those two polls are discarded, and the remaining eight polls are added up, the results are very similar, with 51 percent of Americans supporting gay marriage and 43 percent opposing it.
What all 10 polls had in common were the concepts of “marriage,” “same-sex couples,” and “valid" or "legal” in the questioning.
The closest gap in any poll was in a recent Fox News survey that found that 49 percent of people supported same-sex marriages, while 46 percent opposed them.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll found a 58 percent to 36 percent difference on the issue, which is also much different from an August poll from the same group, which showed a 53 percent to 42 percent difference.
Even in the Fox News poll, long-term changes in public opinion were apparent. In 2004, only 20 percent of people polled by Fox supported same-sex marriages.
The other controversy is about the vast difference in the number of states with legal provisions against gay marriage, compared with states supporting it.
Currently, 30 states have bans on same-sex marriage, and nine states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized it. And additional 11 states have civil unions or domestic partnership provisions.
In the last five ballot measures on the issue, voters in four states approved gay-marriage measures.
There is some agreement that polls overestimate voting performance on the same-sex marriage issue.
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The Washington Post’s analysis of the polling trends points to a 2010 study from New York University, which showed that polls typically undermeasured the number of people who would vote against same-sex marriage in a state referendum.
But the Post also points to the same conclusion that The New York Times’ Nate Silver has reached: that there is steady trend of rising support for same-sex marriage nationally.
“If the current trajectory continues, it’s going to simply be a matter of how big the majority of Americans who support gay marriage is, and how quickly it takes effect across the country,” the newspaper said.
The Times’ Nate Silver looked at most of the same basic numbers we evaluated, for eight polls taken in 2013, including two Fox News polls, and his composite numbers were 51 percent in favor and 42.5 percent against same-sex marriage.
His analysis includes detailed projections about when more states are likely to approve same-sex marriages, if the Supreme Court or Congress doesn’t take action of a federal level.
By Silver’s count, key states such as California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan will have a majority of voters in 2016 that would likely support same-sex marriages in a ballot initiative. And Ohio, Virginia, and Florida would also have a majority of voters in the Yes column.
Composite Poll: In Favor Same-Sex Marriage?
Source Yes No
CBS News 53 % 39%
Fox News 49% 46%
CNN 53% 44%
Pew 49% 44%
WaPo/ABC 58% 36%
Quinnipiac 47% 43%
PRRI 52% 42%
NBC 52% 40%
Gallup 53% 46%
AP-NCC 53% 42%
Average 52% 42%