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A new YNN/NY-1 Marist poll shows that half of New Yorkers support marriage equality, compared to an earlier poll that found historic levels of support at 58%.
According to the new poll of New York adults conducted in late April, 50% said that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, 25% said they should be able to form civil unions, and 25% said their relationships should receive no legal recognition. Among registered voters in the poll, 51% favored marriage equality, while 28% supported civil unions, and 21% said there should not be any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
The results contrast with findings in a Siena poll last month, which found that 58% of New York voters supported the passage of a marriage equality law, 36% were opposed, and 6% did not know. The new poll differs from the earlier survey in key ways, however. For one, the YNN/NY1-Marist survey offered respondents the option of civil unions, which is not under consideration in New York. The new poll also asked people their personal beliefs about marriage, unlike the earlier poll that only asked whether respondents supported or opposed "making same-sex marriages legal in New York State."
In the new poll, majorities of Democrats (57%) and New Yorkers not enrolled in any political party (56%) support marriage equality, whereas Republicans were divided, with 37% supporting civil unions, 32% saying there should be no legal recognition, and 30% supporting marriage equality. In contrast, the earlier poll showed that 65% of Democrats, 45% of Republicans, and 61% of independents supported marriage equality. The new poll also shows that majorities in New York City (56%) and in the city's suburbs (53%) support marriage equality, compared with 41% of people upstate. The earlier poll found support at 54% in New York City, 64% in the suburbs, and 58% upstate.
The views of Republican, independent, suburban, and upstate voters are critical to the passage of marriage equality legislation, which needs at least three Republican votes in the senate. No Republican senator voted for the measure in 2009, which failed the senate that year after passing the assembly three times.
In a statement about the poll Thursday morning, marriage equality advocates sought to highlight the continuing strong support from suburban and independent voters while taking issue with the poll's question about civil unions.
"The NY1-Marist poll is just the latest in a long line of surveys which demonstrate that a growing majority of New Yorkers believe that all couples should have the freedom to marry," said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition. "Notably, the poll shows solid support from suburban and independent voters: When asked about marriage equality, suburban voters favor it over either other option by 14 points while independents favor it by a whopping 26 points. Despite the fact that this survey chose to include civil unions -- an option that is not even being considered by the Legislature and therefore skewed the findings -- we know from numerous surveys that a super majority support full marriage equality when given an up or down choice on legalizing marriage for gay couples. Moreover, notwithstanding the wording of the question, by a two-to-one margin voters support marriage over other options and 75 percent of New Yorkers clearly believe the status quo is unacceptable."
Advocates working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the marriage equality bill by June have used the findings of the Siena poll to boost their efforts, but as the marriage equality campaign intensifies, opponents can be expected to use the new poll to argue for slipping support. This week, the National Organization for Marriage announced it would spend $500,000 on TV ads and $1 million to defeat any senator who votes for the bill.
Even so, national trends continue to show increasing public support for marriage equality, something that the Rev. Jason McGuire, a marriage equality opponent organizing a tour around the state, acknowledged in an interview with The Advocate last month.
"The trends, to be honest, they are not going in a good direction," he said. "If they continue to move in that direction we're going to have a problem."