Monday, October 31, 2011

New Washington Poll Shows Majority Support for Equality

A new poll was released by the Center for Survey Research, part of the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. The poll was a wide-ranging one covering matters such as the privatization of liquor sales in Washington—most voters support that—to the popularity of various political figures. It showed voters leaning Democratic in the presidential race, but going Republican in the gubernatorial race. It also showed a majority of voters would not overturn legislation deregulating marriage when it comes to same-sex couples.

The poll mentioned that the state legislature was expected to pass a marriage equality bill "allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married." Voters were asked how they would vote if a referendum were held to repeal equality legislation. Forty-seven percent of voters said they would NOT repeal marriage equality and that they felt very strongly about the issue. Only 31% were strongly motivated to vote against the bill. Another 8% said they would keep marriage equality but didn't feel strongly about it, giving the equality side a total of 55% of the vote. Another 7% opposed equality but didn't feel strongly about the matter, giving the anti-rights 38% support. Seven percent of voters said they were undecided.

The poll, however, also broke down support into various sub groups. And when this is taken into account there is massive support for some legal recognition of gay couples. Seventeen percent of voters say that the law should give no recognition to gay couples, a very small percentage indeed. Another 15% are willing to allow "domestic partnerships" provided they give a set of inferior rights to gay couples. So only one third of the population supports second class legal standing for gay couples.

But 43% of voters say that gay couples should be allowed to marry and should have the full rights of any other married couples. Another 22% will accept full legal rights for gay couples if they pretend that what the entails is something other than "marriage." Two-thirds of all voters in Washington are willing to grant full legal rights to gay couples.

I have found it odd that a set of legal rights called marriage are considered acceptable by some people provided they call it by some other name. This seems to imply that people endow the word "marriage" with magical powers. If it is viewed as a relationship endowed with the exact same rights as marriage then it is marriage no matter what you call it. The opposition to "civil unions" is that they consistently fail to provide full legal rights even when they are intended to, and the creation of this manufactured status only leads to lead confusion throughout the society. 

The poll seemed to show some general libertarian sentiments among voters in Washington. The initiative to close state liquor stores, auction their assets off, and allow private vendors to sell alcohol is leading in the poll by 7 points, with another 7% undecided. Interestingly it is self-described liberals who support the prohibitionist measure to restrict liquor sales to state stores. Liberals favor state control by 8 points while conservatives are against by almost a 2-to-1 margin. Independents favor privatization by 6 points.

A measure that would restrict funding, received from motor vehicles fees and toll fees, from being used for non-transportation purposes is ahead by 1.4 points with almost 19% undecided. One quarter of all voters want the state budget balanced ONLY using spending cuts and only 3% favor only using tax increased. Another 20% want mostly spending cuts to balance the budget with 39% supporting cuts and new taxes equally.

And while voters in Washington would support Obama over any of the leading Republicans a plurality oppose Obama's health care "reform," (47%-37%). Two-thirds of voters favored the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, with only a quarter supporting it. And a plurality, 48% to 42%, support the state law legalizing and regulating marijuana use in the state.

Add this all up and it appears there is a strong libertarian streak in Washington voters and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are tapping into it.

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