June 6, 2012
By Jacob Combs
In the midst of all the excitement yesterday surrounding the Ninth Circuit’s decision not to hold an en banc rehearing of the Prop 8 case, PPP released a new poll in Minnesota that showed a dramatic shift in public opinion against the state’s proposed constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Only four months ago, a PPP poll found voters were in favor of the measure by a 48/44 margin, but in yesterday’s poll, more voters opposed the ban (at 49 percent) than supported it (at 43 percent).
The shift in opinion, not surprisingly, can be attributed to independent voters, who used to support the amendment by a 50/40 margin, but now oppose it 54/37 percent. Partisan opinions of the marriage ban follow the pattern one would expect: Republicans, for the most part, strongly support it (with 74 percent in favor and 21 percent opposed) while Democrats strongly oppose it by a very similar margin (71 percent against, 22 percent for). But, as PPP puts it, the shift in public opinion among independents could have political implications for both parties:
Independents coming a lot closer to Democrats than Republicans on gay rights is becoming something of a constant in our polling. The GOP seriously risks antagonizing voters in the middle if it continues to pursue a far right social agenda.
When asked whether Minnesota should have marriage equality, voters were 47 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed, roughly mirroring their opinions on the constitutional amendment itself. When asked about civil unions, support rose to 75% percent of voters, including 55 percent of Republicans.
Of course, all polls must be read with a healthy dose of caution. Well-designed polls can provide accurate representations of a population’s opinion on a given issue, but they are inherently smaller in scope than actual ballot votes. And, of course, on issues of civil rights, there is the possibility that some voters are uncomfortable expressing their opposition on such issues to pollsters, but feel more comfortable doing so in the privacy of the voting booth.
Nevertheless, this new Minnesota poll adds to the ever-expanding picture of a dramatic shift in public opinion on the issue of marriage equality happening in the United States right now. At the end of last month, a PPP poll showed that public opinion in Maryland on that state’s marriage equality law had shifted from significant opposition to significant support, and a recent PPP poll in Washington showed broad support for approving that state’s marriage law. In order for these positive numbers to turn into real victories, marriage advocates will have to work hard to ensure that people come out to the votes in areas that are more supportive. But the foundation certainly does seem to be there for several significant marriage wins this November.
UPDATE: CNN also released a new poll today showing majority support for marriage equality in the U.S., with 54 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed. In addition, the number of Americans who say they know a good friend or family member who is gay or lesbian is now at 60 percent, up from 49 percent in 2010. This is the first CNN poll to show a majority for this second statistic. The full results of the poll can be found here.