Poll Finds Support Surging for Maryland Marriage Equality Measure

Voters favor the new marriage equality law by 49% to 39%, with more than half of African-American voters in favor, but those numbers could change when opponents launch their anticipated media campaign.

BY Julie Bolcer

October 01 2012 12:11 PM ET

A new poll shows that support continues to surge for the marriage equality measure in Maryland, with more than half of African Americans, a key voting bloc in the state, in favor of upholding the law. Voters will decide the fate of the measure, known as Question 6, this November.

The Baltimore Sun poll of likely voters found support continues to grow among African-Americans, who make up about 25% of voters in Maryland, a heavily Democratic state. According to the poll, “more than half of likely black voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with a quarter who are opposed.” 

Black voters are expected to turn out in high numbers to vote for President Barack Obama, which makes their position on marriage equality critical to the passage of Question 6. President Obama leads Mitt Romney 57% to 34% in the poll, and Maryland Democrats widely approve of the marriage equality referendum, with 60% in favor compared to 26% of Republicans.

The increasing support among African-American voters marks a “dramatic shift,” according to the Sun, and tracks with other recent polling. Last week, a Gonzalez poll found that while black voters opposed the referendum by 52% to 44%, support had jumped from a low of 33% in January. The Gonzalez poll found the referendum with an 8-point advantage overall, at 51% to 43%.

The change in attitudes among African-Americans is attributed in part to President Obama’s personal support for the cause and the endorsement from the national NAACP, which is headquartered in Baltimore. Following those two developments in May, a Hart poll in August found black voters about evenly split on the issue at 44% to 45%, compared to 40% in favor and 49% opposed in March.

Despite the pattern of increasing support among African-Americans, pollster Steve Raabe of OpinionWorks, which conducted the poll, warned attitudes could change once opponents of the referendum launch an anticipated media blitz. The largest group of undecided voters lives in Baltimore, a majority African-American city, where 21% of voters did not have an opinion on the issue.

Overall, the poll found strongly held beliefs among advocates and opponents of marriage equality, where 38% of respondents "strongly" supported same-sex marriage, with 35% "strongly" opposed. Raabe told the Sun that means people on both sides will be highly motivated to vote.

The telephone survey of 804 likely voters was conducted from September 25 to 27, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Maryland could become the first state to pass marriage equality at the ballot box this November and break a long losing streak for advocates. Initiatives related to marriage are also on the ballot in Maine, Minnesota, and Washington. Last week Gov. Martin O’Malley, who signed the Maryland legislation this year, told reporters that his state still needs to raise $2 million more in order to ensure a successful campaign.

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