A new poll released yesterday on same-sex marriage in Washington state offers surprising — and possibly concerning — results. While a slim majority of voters favor making marriage equality legal, 51% to 42%, the underlying numbers offer more insight and reason for marriage equality supporters to be concerned.
First, a few looks at the numbers and what’s behind them (something media outlets like Talking Points Memo didn’t bother to do.)
PPP, Public Policy Polling, polled 1073 voters in the state of Washington. They asked the same question two different ways.
The first way, “Do you think same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal?” netted the 51% to 42% result, with 54% of women and only 48% of men choosing “legal.” Generally, respondents will not want to make marriage, even for LGBT people, “illegal,” So polls that use the legal/illegal question give marriage equality supporters a more-favorable response.
The other issue there is that PPP also polled more women than men — 54% women, 46% men. And with more women choosing “legal,” and with there being more women, that narrow 51% is looking a little shaky.
The second way the question was asked, “Which of the following best describes your opinion on gay marriage: gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, or gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry, or there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship?,” offers more opportunity for concern.
Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry: 47%
Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not marry: 30%
There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship: 21%
Discounting the 21% against any legal recognition, what we have is a plurality — not a majority of voters opting for marriage equality. Certainly positive, but not comfortable territory.
Add in that the poll is weighted with more Democrats and Independents (36% each) than Republicans (28%), and it’s time to start squirming a bit.
Next, a few more surprises.
64% of the non-white respondents opted to make marriage legal, while only 49% of whites did. The perception that Blacks and other minorities don’t support same-sex marriage has been thrown out the window — or should be, certainly in a post-Obama-supports-same-sex-marriage world.
When the question was asked including the civil union option, the numbers were similar — 56% of non-whites, and 46% of whites voted for marriage.
But disturbing was the age breakdown.
On the same-sex marriage legal/illegal question, 56% of those 18 -29 opted for legal, as did 60% of those 30-45, and 52% of those 46-65. Common wisdom would have put the 18-29 age range at the highest mark.
When the question was asked with the civil union option, an amazing 27% of those 30-45 opted for civil unions, as did 19% of those 18-29.
Add to this the fact that the PPP poll also found the Republican gubernatorial candidate outpacing the Democrat, 43% to 40%, and ” greater support for legalizing marijuana than legalizing gay marriage,” and it’s clear that, despite what PPP’s president Dean Debnam says:
Equality advocates are in position now to go 4 for 4 this fall, winning Minnesota, Maryland, and Maine in addition to Washington
should be subject to great amounts of scrutiny and elbow grease.
A Republican leading may mean more conservative voters will head to the polls; not a good sign for marriage equality supporters.
Bottom line: While these numbers offer a positive indication that marriage may be in Washington’s future, optimism and relaxation should not be found in these numbers — not by a long shot.
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