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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 24, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 08
NEW PUBLIC POLICY POLL: Washington voters would support marriage equality
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NEW PUBLIC POLICY POLL: Washington voters would support marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A new poll says that Washington voters would support the state's new marriage law if it comes before them on the November ballot. Public Policy Polling released the poll on February 22.

'Voters say if there were a referendum on the new law legalizing same-sex marriage, they would vote to uphold it rather than repeal it, 50%-46%,' PPP said.

'Only 20% of voters say they feel there should be no legal recognition of same-sex couples at all, with 46% supporting legal Gay marriage and 32% supporting civil unions but not Gay marriage.'

The poll surveyed 1,264 voters through automated telephone interviews between February 16 and February 19.

The margin of error is 2.76%, so the four-point difference on marriage equality is statistically significant, but not as comfortable as marriage equality supporters might wish.

The breakdown between supporters of marriage equality (46%) and civil unions (32%) seems to indicate that while a large majority of voters want the state to give legal recognition to same-sex couples, those who support civil unions are tending to break against the marriage law.

The new law picks up only four points when the civil unions choice is eliminated and voters are asked to vote up or down on marriage equality. The remaining civil union supporters apparently go over to the no-marriage side.

Respondents were also asked to disclose their age, race, gender, party preference, ideology, and how they voted in the 2008 presidential race.

The cross tabs show that time is clearly on the side of equality. A whopping 63% of voters 29 or under would vote to keep the new marriage equality law.

If civil unions become a possibility, 61% of voters in this age group still endorse the idea of marriage for same-sex couples, and another 16% support civil unions but not marriage. Twenty-one percent say there should be no legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Among voters in the next two age groups, 30-45 and 46-64, 51% in each group would vote to keep the new marriage law.

Only among voters in the oldest group, those 65 and over, does support for marriage equality drop below 50%. Only 39% of the voters in the 65-and-over group support the new marriage law. Fifty-six percent would vote it down.

Nevertheless, 41% of voters in the oldest age group would be willing to accept civil unions but not marriage for Gay and Lesbian couples.

Among white voters, the new marriage law would be approved by exactly the same margin as among all voters, 50%-46%.

Among non-white voters, the split is about even, 46% for and 47% against marriage equality.

Non-white voters tend to show greater support for the civil-union-but-not-marriage option than do whites. Among white voters, marriage outpolls civil unions by 15 points, 47% for marriage to 32% for civil unions. Among non-white voters the margin is much narrower, 40% for marriage to 34% for civil unions but not marriage.

The poll also shows a significant gender gap among voters. Women would vote to uphold marriage equality by a 15-point margin, 55% to 40%. Men, on the other hand, would vote to repeal it, with only 44% voting for equality and 52% against it.

Women are also far more favorable to the idea of marriage, as opposed to civil unions. Fifty-one percent of women favor recognition of marriage, as opposed to only 30% who support civil unions but not marriage.

Among men, the margin is much closer, only 40% favoring marriage equality and 35% favoring recognition of civil unions but not marriage.

Overall, party preference and ideology seem to be the best predictors of support for marriage equality.

Eighty-one percent of Democrats say they would vote to uphold marriage equality. Eighty-two percent of Republicans say they would vote against it.

Only 40% of Republicans say there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships, however, but Republicans favor the civil-union option over marriage as the legal form recognition should take. Forty-six percent of Republican voters said they would favor civil unions between same-sex couples.

Among voters who describe themselves as 'very liberal,' 88% would vote to uphold the new marriage law. Among the 'somewhat liberal,' 80% would support it. Fifty-five percent of moderates and 20% of conservative voters would do so as well. Only 8% of 'very conservative' voters support marriage equality.

Even among the 'very conservative' or 'somewhat conservative' voters, the idea that same-sex couples should have some legal recognition has taken hold. Forty-six percent of the 'very' and 50% of the 'somewhat' conservative voters support civil unions.

Among respondents who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, 79% would vote to uphold marriage equality, and only 17% would vote against it. For McCain voters, the situation is reversed, with only 14% saying they support the new law and 82% saying they oppose it.

Half of the former McCain supporters said that same-sex couples should be able to form civil unions but not to marry. Thirty-seven percent of McCain voters said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships whatsoever.

PPP also polled the race for governor and attorney general.

'Washington appears to be headed for a close state election this fall,' according to PPP President Dean Dunham. The new poll shows gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna tied at 42% each. Candidates for attorney general were also statistically tied, with 32% supporting Bob Ferguson and 34% supporting Reagan Dunn.

'PPP is a Democratic polling company,' their statement cautions, 'but polling expert Nate Silver of the New York Times found that its surveys in 2010 actually exhibited a slight bias toward Republican candidates.'

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