Poll Shows Strong Republican Opposition to Marriage Equality

The results are contrary to those of some other recent polls, but the right-wing groups that commissioned this poll say others were skewed by how questions were worded.

BY Trudy Ring

April 22 2014 5:05 PM ET

Tony Perkins (left) and Gary Bauer

While numerous recent polls have shown growing support for marriage equality even among Republicans, a new one commissioned by two right-wing groups tells a different story.

The poll, released today, found 82 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters saying marriage should be defined only as a union of one man and one woman. Of the total respondents, 74 percent said they definitely agreed with this limit on the definition of marriage, and 8 percent agreed somewhat. Asked if politicians “should support the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples,” 76 percent disagreed — 67 percent definitely and 9 percent somewhat.

The survey, conducted in March by Washington, D.C.–based Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, was commissioned by two antigay organizations, the Family Research Council and American Values. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, has classified the Family Research Council as a hate group because of its use of misinformation in fighting LGBT equality.

The results are “an accurate reflection of where a significant majority of conservatives are,” American Values president Gary Bauer told CBS News. Bauer is a former president of the Family Research Council and a onetime U.S. presidential aspirant.

He acknowledged that there has been growth in support for same-sex marriage rights, but added, “I do not agree that it's as pronounced as some of the polling data seems to suggest.” A New York Times/CBS News poll of Democrats, Republicans, and independents released last month showed a majority of respondents backing marriage equality. Only 40 percent of Republicans were in support, although a majority of younger Republicans and those who identified as moderates were supportive.

Bauer and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins contended that polls showing widespread endorsement of marriage equality were skewed by the wording of questions and a desire to appear “politically correct.” Perkins said he thought some questions lead respondents to equate denying legal recognition to same-sex marriage with criminalizing gay couples who try to wed.

“If you’re asked whether you're in favor or not in favor of legalizing an issue like this — well, nobody really wants to be making anybody a criminal here,” he told CBS. “So you’re sort of backed into a corner on what kind of answer you feel OK about giving.”

Bauer added, “There's this idea that sort of compares being in favor of the traditional definition of marriage with being a bigot or whatever. So people know what a politically correct answer is if a pollster asks that question.”

Their poll comes at a time when there is pressure on the Republican Party to drop its opposition to equal marriage rights. The Nevada Republican Party recently removed that stance from its platform, and the Illinois party ousted six members of its central committee who had called last year for the firing of Pat Brady, then state party chairman, because he had endorsed marriage equality. Members of College Republicans and some party insiders have called for a change in the marriage position at the national level.

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