N.J. Voters Want Marriage Referendum, Poll Shows

A new Quinnipiac poll reveals that a majority of New Jersey voters continue to support same-sex marriage and want a referendum on the issue.

BY Julie Bolcer

May 17 2012 10:55 AM ET

According to the poll, voters in the Garden State back same-sex marriage by 53% to 42%, which is on par with findings from the winter. However, voters across all age groups also want a referendum on the issue, a finding also in line with polls earlier this year.

Among those who support same-sex marriage, support is highest among voters under 35 years old, where voters favor it by 77% to 18%. Voters over 55 are opposed by 53% to 41%. Majorities of Democrats, independents, African-Americans, and those with college degrees support same-sex marriage. Republicans overwhelmingly oppose same-sex marriage by 30% to 65%, according to the poll.

Governor Chris Christie vetoed a marriage equality bill passed by the legislature in February. The Q poll results show that voters think he did the wrong thing by 48% to 44%, a slight reverse from March, when the Q poll found that voters thought the governor did the right thing by 48% to 47%. According to the latest poll, 48% of voters say the legislature should override the governor’s veto, while 45% do not want an override. The state legislature has until the end of its current session in January 2014 to accomplish the override. 

The Republican governor, who supports the current civil unions law, said at the time of his veto that he wanted lawmakers to allow a referendum on the issue. The Democratic-controlled legislature and civil rights leaders sharply criticized the idea. However, the Q poll finds that voters support the referendum idea by 67% to 27%, with support from all age groups, even those voters under 35 who overwhelming support same-sex marriage. 

"New Jerseyans like Gov. Christopher Christie and are divided on whether his veto of the same-sex marriage bill was right or wrong,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a news release. “And they're divided on whether the State Legislative should override the veto. 

"But voters overwhelmingly endorse Christie's idea of putting it up to a referendum,” he said.”

The poll found that the majority of New Jersey voters  - 64% - said that President Barack Obama’s announcement of support for marriage equality would not affect their presidential vote. Some 19% said it would make them less likely to vote for Obama, while 16% said it would make them more likely to vote for the president.

While the president’s announcement may have little affect on voters, his new position does deny Governor Christie one of his chief talking points in opposing marriage equality. As New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald said last week, "In past statements opposing marriage equality, Governor Christie has noted his feet were 'firmly planted right next to President Obama' on this issue. Today, that is no longer true."

Greenwald has called upon Christie to follow the lead of Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island this week and issue an executive order recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed outside New Jersey.

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