Most Americans still think same sex marriage should be illegal...but they think it will be legal within a generation.
Our newest national survey finds 57% of Americans think it should be illegal while 33% think it should be legal and 11% have no opinion. Republicans are pretty universal in thinking it should be illegal, 81/12, while Democrats only narrowly favor it 47/40. Independents array slightly against it by a 48/41 margin.
Americans within pretty much every demographic group continue to oppose gay marriage. Whites are against it 58/34, Hispanics 57/27, and African Americans 52/34. Women oppose it 55/35 and men do 59/31. Voters under 30 do 52/44, ones between 30 and 45 do 51/37, ones between 46 and 65 do 59/29 and those over 65 do 61/31.
Although most Americans still oppose gay marriage they see that a change is coming. 53% think that it will be legal 20 years from now while only 32% think it will still be disallowed. Proponents of gay marriage are incredibly optimistic on the issue- 96% of them think it will be legal by 2030 to only 1% who thinks it will not. Among gay marriage opponents 27% think it will be a reality within a couple decades to 55% who think it will continue to be illegal.
Obviously these poll results are very different from a CNN poll earlier this week that showed Americans moving in support of gay marriage, but disparities between live interviewer and the automated polling we do on this issue are not a new thing. Last fall our polling in Maine showed an anti-gay marriage measure passing by 4 points while live interviewer polls by Democracy Corps and Pan Atlantic SMS showed it failing by 9 and 11 points respectively. The measure did end up passing by a margin of 5.5 points.
Why the disparity between automated and live interviewer polls on gay marriage? Americans are still biased against gay people...but some of them know that's wrong and they shouldn't be. Because of that they're more likely to tell their true feelings on an automated poll where there's no social anxiety concern than to a live interviewer who they may be worried about the reaction of.
It is frankly impossible, based on the results of gay marriage referendums over the last decade, to believe that a majority of Americans support its legalization. Dark blue states like California and Maine voted against it just in the last two years. Obama states like Wisconsin and Virginia rejected it by 14 and 18 points margins in 2006 and red states like South Carolina and Tennessee did so by 56 and 62 point margins. The actual votes we have had on same sex marriage in many states across the country are a more dependable barometer of opinion on the issue than any polling and they tell the story of an American public pretty still pretty opposed to it.
Nevertheless the numbers are moving in the right direction for gay marriage proponents, if slowly, and the predictions of respondents on this poll about what the status of same sex marriage will be in the future may be a good predictor of where things are ultimately headed.
Full results here