Monday, November 7, 2011

North Carolina and Marriage Equality

Elon University has released its most recent poll regarding marriage equality. A Republican measure has been put on the ballot to make it unconstitutional to allow same-sex couples enter into marriage contracts. These constitutionally-imposed regulations would mean that no gay couple could have a legally valid marriage contract.

Opposition to all forms of legal recognition of gay couples remains steady in the state. It was at 35% in February, 34.4% in September, and is shows up at 34.5% now. This indicates that the most hard core anti-gay population is around one-third of the public. Support for the "civil unions" option—an attempt to be separate but equal—has been slowly eroding. It was at 29% in February, 28.6% in September, and is now at 26.4%. This would seem to indicate a shift in views. But with opposition standing steady it would have to mean the shift was going in the direction of full marriage equality for same-sex couples. And that is what the poll shows. In February 27.8% supported full marriage equality, it rose to 33% in September and is holding steady at 33% now. This would indicate that about two-thirds of residents of the state support some legal recognition of gay relationships.

Asked if they would support an amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage contracts a majority of residents still express opposition to the idea, again there is slow evolution in attitudes. In February 21.8% of residents said they strongly opposed the idea of the ban, now it is 32.1%. In February 34% said they opposed the idea, just not strongly so, today it is 24.9%. This indicates that opponents to the measure have been firming up their opposition.

Similarly, those who wish to ban marriage contracts for gay couples have also become more firm in their desires to enshrine unequal protection before the law. In February only 16.3% strongly supported a constitutional ban, today it is 21.8%. Those who supported the ban, but not strongly, stood at 21.6% in February and is now at 14.7%

Add them together and you find that opposition to the amendment stood at 55.8% in February and is at 57% today. Total support for the discriminatory clause was at 37% in February and is now at 36.5%. In other words, neither side is gaining or losing ground, but opinions are becoming more polarized.

The real issue on election day is who turns out. An issue can have majority support in the state but still lose at the polls depending on whether the opponents turn out in greater numbers than the supporters. If the Republicans lose one of their hate campaigns in a Southern, Bible-belt state, it could mark a turning point on the issue. Long-term trends are against the Republican strategy of stirring up hatred for gays and immigrants and at some point those trends will tip the votes against the Republican agenda.

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