March 29, 2012
Public Policy Polling has just released a new poll of likely primary voters in North Carolina who were asked about Amendment 1, the state constitutional amendment on the ballot for the May 8 primary. According to PPP, the news is mostly not good, but there seems to be some hope:
PPP’s newest look at the marriage amendment in North Carolina finds it passing by a wide margin, but also that voters don’t really understand what the ban does and that once they do things get a lot closer.
58% of voters in the state say that they’ll vote yes on Amendment 1, while 38% are opposed to it. Republicans pretty universally support it, 76/20. Democrats are closely divided with 48% in support and 47% opposed. White Democrats are opposed to the proposed ban, but African Americans support it 61/30.
The fact that voters don’t know what the amendment will actually do seems to suggest that there’s a chance that with some more outreach and education, it could be winnable for the equality side:
The marriage amendment which will be on the ballot during the May 8th North Carolina primary continues to lead for passage by 20 points, but if voters are informed of its negative consequences for the potential future passage of civil unions for gay couples, it would narrowly fail.
58% of likely primary voters say right now that they would vote “yes,” while 38% plan to vote “no.” But at the same time, 51% of these voters support some form of legal recognition for gay couples’ relationships, either full marriage or civil unions. 34% of those folks are planning to vote for the amendment. Because of that, if informed that the amendment would ban both marriage and civil unions for gay couples, support goes down 17 points to 41%, and opposition rises 4% to 42%.
Part of the problem is that voters are not well informed about what the amendment does. A 34% plurality say they are not sure on that question. Almost as many (31%) do know that it would ban both gay marriage and civil unions, but then not many fewer (28%) think it would only ban marriage. 7% actually think it would legalize gay marriage. Those who think it bans solely marriage rights are voting 67-30 for it, so 8% of North Carolinians, while misinformed, are voting against the measure simply because they think it bans same-sex marriage alone. Of course, those who think a “yes” vote actually legalizes these unions are voting by the same margin for it.
Democrats seem to narrowly favor the amendment, but interestingly, independents oppose it:
Democrats narrowly favor the amendment from the get-go (48-47), and Republicans do overwhelmingly (76-20), but independents oppose it, 42-55.
PPP finds this notable:
The group most opposed is actually independents, who say they’ll vote against it 55/42. That’s an important commentary on unaffiliated voters beyond this issue- they lean Republican in North Carolina right now because they’re unhappy with the economy, but they’re not hardcore social conservatives. The GOP needs to be careful about going too far out on a limb on social issues if it wants to keep its support with independents.
According to these results, it will come down to making sure voters are fully informed about what the amendment will do. Voters seem largely in support of the concept that marriage is between a man and a woman, but they aren’t willing to deny all recognition to all gay couples across the board. Voters don’t seem to know the amendment denies civil unions and possibly other protections to loving gay couples along with marriage.
The results suggest this knowledge would change the outlook:
When voters are informed that the amendment bans both gay marriage and civil unions their tune changes quite a bit. Only 41% of voters say they’ll support it knowing that, while 42% are opposed. So despite the large current lead for the amendment, there is some hope for those trying to defeat it.
And this is why the fight in North Carolina is so important and necessary. It’s close and it seems possible that the campaign could help make sure enough voters are informed about what’s in the amendment before May 8th. Without outreach and education things certainly look a lot more bleak, but bringing down the numbers of supporters of the amendment to 41% does not seem too far out of reach.