Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some Polling on Gay Marriage in New Jersey

In our post election poll from November 6-10, we had a battery of questions on gay marriage. This issue is coming to the front in New Jersey right now because the election of Chris Christie as governor means it either moves forward in the legislature now, or a law on marriage equality is dead, given Christie's vow to veto any such bill.

So there is a lot of speculation on whether a bill will come up for a vote in the lame-duck legislative session. If it does, and it passes, Gov. Jon Corzine says he'll sign it. And our polling suggests a majority of New Jersey residents would be ok with that.

The results, shown below, say that gay marriage is supported in NJ 46-42, but more importantly, when asked what should be done if the legislature legalizes gay marriage, 52% say that the decision should be accepted. Only 40% call for amending the constitution to overturn the law. This is mostly because those who "don't know" their position on gay marriage mostly say that if a bill passes, it should be accepted.

Now, of course this is asking the question outside of any possible intensive campaign opposing gay marriage, as would probably occur. But the issue does not appear to be all that important to New Jerseyans, the vast majority of whom call it "somewhat important" or "not at all important" compared to other issues facing the state. And, in an interesting finding, the issue is MORE important for those who support gay marriage than it is for those who oppose it.

Press release follows. Questions and tables are available at Marriage PR Final with Tables.pdf



A Majority would not Challenge a Legislative Bill Legalizing Gay Marriage

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Supporters of gay marriage may find New Jersey more hospitable than many other states, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. By a 46 percent to 42 percent margin, adults in New Jerseyans favor legalizing same-sex nuptials, with 12 percent unsure.

The survey also shows that if the state Legislature passes a bill legalizing gay marriage, 52 percent would accept the decision, while 40 percent would support a constitutional amendment banning the practice.

“Residents of New Jersey are more supportive of gay marriage than opposed to it, and more importantly a majority would accept a legislative decision legalizing same-sex marriages,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While this tests opinion outside the intensity of a campaign to ban gay marriage as occurred in California, there is more of a ‘live and let live’ attitude in New Jersey than in many other states that have dealt with this issue.”

The poll of 903 New Jersey adults was fielded November 6-10 and has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. Half the respondents also had been interviewed before the Nov. 3 elections. The gay marriage questions were asked only after Election Day.

Support for Gay Marriage in New Jersey

Women are more likely than men to support gay marriage here, 51 percent to 42 percent, and younger residents (under 40) are more supportive than their older counterparts, by 53 percent to 43 percent. About half the Latino (52 percent) and white (49 percent) respondents favor same-sex marriage, but only 29 percent of blacks feel the same way. The results mirror national trends, Redlawsk said.

“Support for legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey follows the patterns of other states and nationally,” said Redlawsk. “For many younger people, the idea of gay marriage causes a shrug rather than a negative reaction. On the other hand, there is strong opposition to legalizing gay marriage in the African-American community nationally, something we also see in New Jersey.”

Gay Marriage not an Important Issue for Most New Jerseyans

Clearly, residents don’t give gay marriage a high priority among issues facing the state: only 2 percent say it is the most important issue, while 15 percent say it is one of a few very important issues. Another 37 percent call the issue “somewhat important,” while 44 percent say it is “not at all important.”

“The holds across the board,” said Redlawsk. “Even African-Americans, who are strongly in opposition, do not consider gay marriage an important issue, with 53 percent of blacks saying it is not at all important. While there is some opposition to legalizing gay marriage, most think there are more important issues for the state to address.”

Supporters of gay marriage are much more likely to call the issue “very important” with 22 percent of supporters feeling strongly, while only 24 percent think the issue is not important. In comparison, 61 percent of those who oppose gay marriage say the issue is not important.

Responding to a Bill Legalizing Gay Marriage

In response to hypothetical legislative approval of gay marriage, residents were asked to choose from three options: support a state constitutional amendment to ban both gay marriages and civil unions; support an amendment to ban gay marriages only; accept gay marriages. A majority (52 percent) would accept legalization, three times as many who would favor banning both practices and more than twice the number who would ban gay marriages only.

“If the legislature passes a bill on gay marriage, our results suggest that most New Jersey residents will accept the decision,” said Redlawsk. “There will be a strong reaction from opponents, but for the most part, opponents actually see this as a less important issue than do supporters. And interestingly, about half the undecided respondents would accept legalizing gay marriage, while only 18 percent would support some kind of ban, suggesting that they are not a likely source of opposition to a gay marriage bill.”

Knowing Someone Who is Gay or Lesbian Increases Support

Many New Jerseyans have gay or lesbian friends (56 percent), family (32 percent), or co-workers (30 percent). Those with a gay co-worker are 9 points more likely to support gay marriage than those who do not, while those with a gay family member are 19 points more supportive and those with a gay close friend are 17 points more supportive of gay marriage. Those who know gays or lesbians are also more likely to consider the issue of gay marriage to be important than those who do not.

“Social scientists hypothesize that having contact with people who are different from ourselves can result in greater sympathy for and understanding of other people,” said Redlawsk. “This is clearly the case in New Jersey. Knowing a gay person results in much greater support for gay marriage probably because having such contact results in seeing past whatever differences we imagine there are between people.”

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