By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com April 11 2011 11:40 AM ET
Results of a poll released Monday by the non-partisan Siena Research Institute
show that 58% of New York voters, the largest percentage ever, want state
lawmakers to pass a marriage equality bill.
The telephone poll of 777 registered voters in early April found 58% in favor of and 36% opposed to “making same-sex marriages legal in New York state.” That represents a slight but significant change from January, when the Siena poll found 57% in support and 38% opposed. Moreover, according to pollster Steven Greenberg, voters age 55 and older and Republicans are almost even divided on the issue, while voters younger than 55 and Democrats and independents are strongly in favor.
Marriage equality advocates hailed the record-breaking findings, which reported the highest-ever percentage of voters in favor and the lowest-ever percentage opposed. The findings reflect other recent polls that put support at 56% and a projection from The New York Times that showed support at 58%.
"This latest poll showing a supermajority of New Yorkers supporting the freedom to marry proves New Yorkers get it,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, part of a coalition at work in the state. “Now it's time for the state senate to do it. Ending marriage discrimination helps families while hurting no one and it is time for New York to take the lead in treating people fairly. Freedom to Marry is working closely with Governor Cuomo, legislative leaders, and our partner organizations to get New York where it needs to be this spring, and now is the time for everyone to pitch in and get this job done."
The marriage equality bill has passed the state assembly three times, but it failed in the state senate by a vote of 38 to 24 in 2009. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stated his desire to see another vote on the bill by June, when the legislative session ends.
“Today’s Siena poll results are yet another indication of ever-increasing support in New York for allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry,” said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “State legislators who have not supported marriage equality in the past should take note that New Yorkers — including nearly two thirds of suburban voters and a majority of upstate and Catholic voters — clearly believe in fairness and equality for their LGBT family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.”
The record level of support for marriage equality bodes especially well when combined with the poll’s findings about Cuomo. In the wake of the budget, which passed this month not only on time but early, the new governor enjoys a 73% favorability rating, with 54% of voters giving his job performance an “excellent” or “good” rating.
“Momentum is clearly on our side with popular support and a governor committed to this issue,” said Brian Ellner, senior strategist in New York for the Human Rights Campaign, which has deployed more than 12 field organizers around the state and created the ongoing New Yorkers for Marriage Equality video series. “It’s time for leaders in Albany to take up this critical issue and respect the loving and committed relationships of same-sex couples in our state,” he said.
Support for Cuomo runs high and widespread despite some voters’ expression of dissatisfaction with his recently passed austerity budget. According to the Siena poll, only 27% of respondents believe that citizens were “winners” in the budget, with respondents citing losses for teachers’ unions, local districts, and hospitals. The budget agreement also cut in half, from $4.7 million to $2.35 million, funding for homeless and runaway youths, many of whom are LGBT.
“I think that he is going to be very careful to recognize that one of the reasons he is viewed, and one of the reasons that he will continue to be viewed, as a very strong governor is that people want budget discipline right now,” said Republican consultant Tom Doherty.“I do think that he will work with and use that leverage to pass something that should have been passed a long time ago.”
Cuomo has not yet introduced a marriage equality bill, and the legislative agenda remains crowded with other business including a property tax cap and a new ethics law for state lawmakers, both of which topped the concerns of voters in the Siena poll. Legalizing same-sex marriage was identified as the most important issue by 13% of respondents, compared to 37% for the tax cap and 27% for ethics reform.