A new poll shows both a setback and an opportunity for opponents of a marriage ban proposed in North Carolina.
Public Policy Polling found that 61% of North Carolinians now support the antigay amendment to the state's constitution. The poll contradicted one from Elon University in late September that showed only 39% support.
The Elon poll had spread optimism among the ranks of gay rights groups about their chances of turning back the amendment at the ballot box -- a rare feat across the nation that has happened only once before in Arizona.
Most alarming for activists should be that the PPP survey found support widespread regardless of party. Favoring the amendment were 80% of Republicans, 52% of independents and 49% of Democrats. (Only 44% of Democrats said they opposed the amendment.)
Still, there is a sign of hope. Both Elon and PPP found voters paradoxically in favor of rights for same-sex couples.
When asked to support a specific type of union, 51% of voters picked either marriage (22%) or civil unions (29%) -- both of which would be banned under the restrictive language of the North Carolina amendment. It would also ban domestic partnerships.
"The problem for those trying to defeat the amendment is that 37% of voters who support gay marriage or civil unions are still planning to vote for [the amendment]," wrote Tom Jensen, director for PPP. "That suggests a lot of folks aren't familiar with how wide reaching the proposed amendment would be and it gives those fighting it a chance -- they just have to get their message out effectively to the majority of North Carolinians who do support legal recognition for gay couples that the proposal goes too far."
Because the vote will be held in May in conjunction with the Republican presidential primary (and a few state Democratic primaries), voter turnout is widely expected to be lower than had the referendum been held, as originally proposed, in November alongside the presidential and general election.
So finding the voters who agree with you and then getting them to the polls becomes pivotal for both sides.