Half of Americans Support Marriage Equality

A new Gallup poll finds that half of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legally recognized, the second time a majority has supported the issue in a Gallup poll.

BY Julie Bolcer

May 08 2012 12:01 PM ET

CNN reports on the poll, which found that 50% of respondents said same-sex marriages should be recognized as legal, while 48% said the unions should not be legal. This compares with last year’s Gallup poll that found 53% of Americans in support, the first time that a majority favored the issue since polling began in 1996. The slight drop in support this year is not statistically significant, according to Gallup, although it is notably not an increase, either.

Like other recent national polls that show slight majorities favoring same-sex marriage, the latest poll found sharp partisan divides. Two-thirds of Democrats surveyed support same-sex marriage, followed by 57% of independents, and 22% of Republicans. Religious adherence also appears to play a role in respondents’ views. 

“According to the Gallup poll, there's also a divide along religious lines, with Catholics, by a 51%-47% margin, in support of legal same sex marriages but Protestants, by a 59%-38% margin, opposed,” reported CNN. “The survey also indicates that the more frequently a person attends religious services, the less likely that person is to support legalizing same sex marriages.”

The new poll results arrive during a week of significant developments on marriage equality nationwide. North Carolina voters will decide Tuesday on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced their support for marriage equality, bringing to three the number of Obama cabinet members who have publicly declared a more “evolved” position than the president. Advocates continue to ramp up the pressure on President Obama, with Caroline Kennedy becoming the latest prominent Democrat to join push for a marriage equality plank at the Democratic National Convention in September.

According to Gallup, the poll results help to explain the ambiguous stance of President Obama in this election year. 

“This year's results underscore just how divided the nation is on this issue,” the polling company said in its news release. “As a result, President Obama's campaign strategy team obviously is continuing to grapple with how to handle it -- with the vice president on the one hand essentially endorsing legalized gay marriage, while the administration on the other hand stops just short of the same pronouncement. Obama's core constituency of Democrats strongly supports the issue, as do the majority of the important election group of independents. The president has said his view on the issue is ‘evolving,’ so it is possible he will eventually go on record as supporting gay marriage, but for now, he officially remains opposed.”

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