March 8, 2012
By Adam Bink
Last week, the respected Field Poll showed a remarkable 59% of Californians support same-sex marriage. The result was met by many, including myself, with cautious optimism, but it’s clear the public have trended towards equality and in no small part due to the court rulings on the Perry v. Brown case challenging Proposition 8 and the significant amount of news coverage generated by the rulings.
Today, Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a new poll as part of their every-few-months statewide survey, showing 52% of Californians support same-sex marriage (support jumps to 56% among likely voters). While the numbers have not trended upward in every single poll PPIC has conducted on the topic (50% in March 2010; 52% in September 2010; 53% in September 2011; 52% today), and all the results are within the margin of error, it certainly provides another note of optimism when taken alongside the Field Poll. And, of course, the results are significantly better than in January 2000, when just 39% of Californians supported same-sex marriage.
Some historical results and cross-tabs on today’s poll can be found below, which can be attributed to the PPIC survey.
LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
The latest chapter of the same-sex marriage debate in California recently played out in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel upheld a lower court ruling that Proposition 8—which bans same-sex marriage and was passed by California voters in 2008 (52% yes, 48% no)—is unconstitutional. In the opinion of the court, there is no legitimate reason to treat a class of people differently by stripping away their right to marry, a right that had previously been granted in the state of California. Proposition 8 proponents have now appealed to the full Ninth Circuit. The issue has also made headlines recently as the states of Maryland and Washington passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage.
In PPIC Statewide Surveys, support for allowing same-sex marriage reached 50 percent for the first time in March 2010 (50% favor, 45% oppose), with the margin widening to 10 points in September 2010 (52% favor, 42% oppose) and to 11 points in September 2011 (53% favor, 42% oppose) and today (52% favor, 41% oppose). When the question was first asked in January 2000 (just prior to voters approving a March statewide ballot measure that defined marriage as between a man and a woman), 39 percent of Californians favored same-sex marriage and 55 percent were opposed. In February 2004, just after then- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began conducting same-sex marriages (against state law), 44 percent of Californians expressed support, while 50 percent were opposed. Marriages were subsequently halted by the state. Then, in June 2008, the California State Supreme Court ruled that the 2000 initiative was unconstitutional, which led to a brief period in which same-sex marriage was legal.
Leading up to the November 2008 election that included Proposition 8, Californians were slightly opposed (October 2008: 44% favor, 50% oppose). Today, just over half of Californians favor allowing same-sex marriage (52% favor, 41% oppose). The margin of support is larger among likely voters (56% favor, 38% oppose). A strong majority of Democrats (72%) and 56 percent of independents are in favor, while most Republicans (61%) are opposed. Women are in favor, while men are divided. A solid majority of younger Californians support this idea, while those age 35 and older are divided. Support is highest in the San Francisco Bay Area (59%); residents in the Other Southern California region and Los Angeles are somewhat more likely to favor than oppose same-sex marriage; Central Valley residents are divided. Majorities of both whites (57%) and Asians (54%) express support, while the issue divides Latinos. Support increases with rising income and education. Married Californians and parents are divided, while two in three who have never been married support same-sex marriage. A strong majority of those unaffiliated with any religion express support, while Protestants are opposed and Catholics are divided. Six in 10 evangelical Christians oppose same-sex marriage.