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Marriage Equality

As Support for North Carolina's Equal Marriage Grows, Voters Want to Weigh in

As Support for North Carolina's Equal Marriage Grows, Voters Want to Weigh in


Two years after approving a constitutional marriage ban, voters have grown more sympathetic to marriage equality, according to a new pair of polls.

Two new polls in North Carolina indicate growing support for the freedom to marry, although one of the sources may not be completely impartial.

The first survey comes from Elon University, and shows support at a statistical tie: 45 percent of North Carolina residents polled in favor of marriage equality, 43 percent opposed.

Although other surveys have shown support at even higher levels, this is the first time that Elon has measured support for marriage equality above opposition. Historically, Elon's numbers have shown some fluctuation: a survey in June of 2014 put support between 41 to 46 percent; in March of 2014, Elon found support for equal marriage between 40 and 51 percent; and in April of 2013, support wavered between 44 to 45 percent.

A second survey shows that voters would prefer that the issue go to the ballot, rather than to court, though that poll notably comes from GOP-led firm American Insights. In a summary of its findings, American Insights repeatedly uses the term "redefining marriage," and describes opposite-sex couplings as "traditional marriages."

According to the AI survey, 62 percent of "North Carolina registered voters ... believe that they, not courts, should decide the issue." Voter support for settling the issue through the courts is at just 26 percent.

In addition, AI shows 44 percent of likely voters support marriage equality, with 48 percent opposed.

These numbers are generally consistent with recent data from Public Policy Polling, the Public Religion Research Institute and TheNew York Times, which show support and opposition fluctuating around the mid-40s to low 50s over the last year and a half.

But this ongoing statistical tie is a relatively new phenomenon: in 2011, PPP polling showed support at 31 percent to the opposition's 61 percent. In May of 2012, voters approved a constitutional ban on marriage by a margin of 61 percent to 38 percent.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in April of this year, arguing that the ban is unconstitutional. Attorney General Roy Cooper recently announced that he would no longer defend the law in court. The case is now fully briefed and ready to be heard as of mid-August, but no oral argument has yet been scheduled.

AI's poll also asked respondents about how they felt regarding Cooper's decision, concluding that "[v]oters are torn on Attorney General Roy Cooper's decision to not defend Amendment One, with the plurality disagreeing with the move," according to a statement from American Insights Director Pearce Godwin.

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