Public opinion of same-sex marriage in the United States
|Legal recognition of
|† Not yet in effect
1 Not in the Faroe Islands or Greenland
There is much media coverage of and research on public opinion of same-sex marriage in the United States. Most recent polls show majority support for legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Majority public support for same-sex marriage has solidified, and recent polls consistently indicate support above 50%. Support has increased steadily for more than a decade, with supporters first achieving a majority in 2010. An August 2010 CNN poll became the first national poll to show majority support for same-sex marriage, with nearly all subsequent polls showing majority support.
Support for same-sex marriage generally correlates with lack of religious fundamentalism, young age, higher education, and residence in the Northeast and West Coast. Women are also more likely to be in support than men.
Polls in 2013
A May 9 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 55% of Americans supported gay marriage while 40% did not.
A March 20–24 CBS News Poll shows that 53% of Americans support same-sex marriage, 39% oppose, and 8% are undecided. The same poll also finds that 33% of Americans who now think same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry say they once held the opposite view and have changed their opinion.
A March 7–10 Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 58% of Americans support same-sex marriage while 36% oppose. The poll indicates that 52% of GOP-leaning independents under 50 years old now support gay marriage.
A March Quinnipiac University poll found 47% support and 43% opposed among all voters.
A February Fox News poll indicated that 46% of Americans support same-sex marriage while another 46% oppose it.
A March 20–24 CBS News Poll showed that 53% of Americans support same-sex marriage while 39% oppose it.
Polls in 2012
A November 26–29 Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans support same-sex marriage while 46% do not.
A May 10 USA Today/Gallup Poll, taken one day after Barack Obama became the first sitting President to express support for same-sex marriage, showed 51% of Americans agreed with the President's endorsement, while 45% disagreed. A May 8 Gallup Poll showed plurality support for same-sex marriage nationwide, with 50% in favor and 48% opposed.
A March 7–10 ABC News/Washington Post poll found 52% of adults thought it should be legal for same-sex couples to get married, while 42% disagreed and 5% were unsure. A March survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found 52% of Americans supported allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 44% opposed.
Polls in 2011
Public support for same-sex marriage continued to grow in 2011. In February and March, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey found about as many adults favored (45%) as opposed (46%) allowing same-sex couples to marry legally, compared to a 2009 Pew Research survey that found just 37% backed same-sex marriage while 54% opposed. In March and April, polls by Gallup, ABC News/Washington Post, and CNN/Opinion Research all showed that a majority of Americans approved of same-sex marriage.
As had been the case since 1996, there remained a wide partisan division. In March, Pew reported that 57% of Democrats favored legal recognition for same-sex marriage, and 51% of independents agreed, but only 23% of Republicans agreed. An April CNN/Opinion Research Poll showed majority support including 64% of Democrats and 55% of independents, but only 27% of Republicans.
In March 2011, Democracy Corps conducted a survey of 1,000 likely 2012 election voters in 50 congressional districts considered political battlegrounds. It asked respondents to rate their feelings on the same-sex marriage issue on a 0–100 scale, with 100 being "very warm" or favorable feelings, and 0 being "very cold" or unfavorable feelings. 42% were on the "cool" or unfavorable side, and 35% were on the "warm" or favorable side.
A May 2011 Gallup Poll also showed majority support for same-sex marriage, 53% in favor to 45% opposed. Gallup measured a 9-point increase in support, from 44% to 53%, indicating that support increased faster than in any previous year.
Polls in 2010
In 2010, national polls began to show majority support for same-sex marriage.
An August Associated Press/National Constitution Center poll found 52% agreed that the federal government should give legal recognition to marriages between couples of the same sex, an increase from 46% in 2009. 46% disagreed, compared to 53% in 2009.
An August CNN/Opinion Research Poll showed that 49% of respondents thought gays and lesbians do have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid, and 52% thought gays and lesbians should have that right.
Earlier polls in February and May found opinion divided within the margin of error, but with a consistent trend of increasing support and decreasing opposition compared to prior years. One August poll found majority opposition, and a November exit poll of 17,504 voters by CNN during the 2010 midterm elections found 53% opposition with 41% support.
Older polls (2009 and earlier)
An April 30, 2009 ABC News/Washington Post poll found support for allowing same-sex couples to marry in the United States ahead of opposition for the first time: 49% support, 46% opposition, and 5% with no opinion. In addition, 53% believed that same-sex marriages performed in other states should be legal in their states. 62% of Democrats and 52% of Independents supported same-sex marriage, while 74% of Republicans opposed.
An April 22–26, 2009, poll by CBS/New York Times found 42% supported marriage for same sex couples, 25% supported civil unions, and 28% opposed any legal recognition of same sex couples. 5% of respondents were unsure.
A USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted May 7–10, 2009, however, found support at only 40%, lower than in 2003, with 57% opposed. According to this poll, 48% of Americans feel that society would change for the worse if same sex marriage were legalized, the same percentage as a 2003 poll. The poll asked: "Which comes closest to your view? 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."
|Legal Marriage||Civil Unions||No Legal Recognition||Unsure|
A CBS News poll conducted from March 12–26, 2009 asked: "Which comes closest to your view? 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."
|Legal marriage||Civil union||No recognition||Unsure|
|All political parties||33%||27%||35%||5%|
Nate Silver noted that the discrepancy in support for same-sex marriage appears to result from 5-10% of respondents who favor civil unions over same-sex marriage, but given only two choices, will support same-sex marriage.
A LifeWay Research poll conducted in August 2009 found that 61% of Americans born between 1980 and 1991 see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married while 39% disagree. The survey was conducted on a demographically representative survey of 1,200 U.S. adults between 18 and 29 years old.
In a poll conducted on July 17, 2008, by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, with 55 percent opposed, and 36 percent in favor. An ABC News poll found that the majority (58%) of Americans remained opposed to same-sex marriages, while the minority (36%) support them. However, on the question of a constitutional amendment, more are now opposed than for it. The majority (51%) of Americans say the issue should be left for the states to decide, while 43% would agree with amending the Constitution.
When asked about the legal status, a July 2008 poll by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute revealed that 32% of respondents would allow homosexual partners to legally marry, 33% would permit them to form civil unions, and 29% would grant them no legal recognition. A December 2008 poll revealed that 32% of respondents support the concept of civil unions, 31% would offer full marriage rights to same-sex couples, and 30% oppose any legal recognition for gay and lesbian partnerships.
Prior to this poll, Gallup conducted a poll on the issue through May 2006. The poll found opposition to same-sex marriage had fallen slightly, as other polls found a sharper dip. In the poll, when asked if marriages between homosexuals should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages, 58% (down 1 point from Aug 2005, and 9 points from March 1996) of Americans responded that they should not be recognized. 39% (up 2 points from Aug 2005, and 12 points from 1996) felt same-sex marriages should be recognized by law. If "homosexuals" is replaced with "same-sex couples", 42% back same-sex marriage while 56% oppose it.
A similar poll conducted in March 2006, a Princeton Survey Research Associates/Pew Research Center poll concluded 39% of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 51% oppose it, and 10% were undecided. In December 2004, a poll by the same company found 61% of Americans opposed – with 38% "strongly opposed". Now, less than 2 years later, just 23% are "strongly opposed". However, an identical poll taken by the same group in June 2006 found a rise in those opposed to same-sex marriage, with 56% disapproving of the practice.
The most recent poll prior to this also showed opposition to same-sex marriages had fallen. An Opinion Dynamics/Fox News poll released April 6 of 2006. According to this poll, 55% of Americans oppose same-sex marriage, 33% support it, and 11% are unsure of where they stand.
Gallup Poll (known as the "CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll" before 2006) of adults nationwide.
"Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?" (Wording pre-2006: "Do you think marriages between homosexuals should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?") N=492, MoE ± 5 (Form A)
In the following table, "Y" means "Should Be Valid"; "N" means "Should Not Be Valid"; and "U" means "Unsure".
|5/3 – 5/6/2012||50||48||2|
|5/5 – 5/8/2011||53||45||3|
|5/2 – 5/6/2010||44||53||3|
|5/7 – 5/10-2009||40||57||3|
|5/8 – 5/11/2008||40||56||4|
|5/10 – 5/13/2007||46||53||1|
|5/8 – 5/11/2006||42||56||2|
|4/29 – 5/1/2005||39||56||5|
|3/18 – 3/20/2005||28||68||4|
|7/19 – 7/21/2004||32||62||6|
|3/5 – 3/7/2004||33||61||6|
|2/16 – 2/17/2004||32||64||4|
|2/6 – 2/8/2004||36||59||5|
A poll taken June 22, 2006 by Rasmussen Reports asked "Should marriage be defined in terms of a union between a man and a woman? Or should marriage be defined as a union between any two people including same sex couples?" 68% replied that "marriage is between man and woman", 29% said marriage "between any two people" and 4% were "not sure".
- "Which comes closest to your view? 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."
|Legal marriage||Civil union||No recognition||Unsure|
|August 20–24, 2010||40%||30%||25%||5%|
|April 5–12, 2010||39%||24%||30%||7%|
|June 12–16, 2009||33%||30%||32%||5%|
|April 22–26, 2009||42%||25%||28%||5%|
|March 12–26, 2009||33%||27%||35%||5%|
|May 30 - June 3, 2008||30%||28%||36%||6%|
|March 7–11, 2007||28%||32%||35%||5%|
|October 27–31, 2006||28%||29%||38%||5%|
|February 24–28, 2005||23%||34%||41%||2%|
|November 18–21, 2004||21%||32%||44%||3%|
|July 11–15, 2004||28%||31%||38%||3%|
|May 20–23, 2004||28%||29%||40%||3%|
|March 10–14, 2004||22%||33%||40%||5%|
- The same CBS News Poll highlighting regional, political party affiliations and age differences in views. March 12–16, 2009. Nationwide:
|Demographic||Marriage||Civil union||No recognition|
|65 and older||26%||29%||41%|
|65 & older||18%||27%||47%|
- "Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally?" (Margin of error three percent)
|April 4–15, 2012||47%||43%||10%|
|February 22–March 14, 2011||45%||46%||9%|
|July 21–August 5, 2010||42%||48%||10%|
|July 9, 2009||37%||54%||9%|
|May 21–25, 2008||38%||49%||13%|
|March 8–12, 2006||39%||51%||10%|
|July 13–17, 2005||36%||53%||11%|
|December 1–16, 2004||32%||61%||7%|
|August 5–10, 2004||29%||60%||11%|
- "Do you strongly favor, oppose, or strongly oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples? (Margin of error three percent)
|July 13–17, 2005||53%||40%||7%|
|August 5–10, 2004||48%||45%||7%|
A further Pew study in March 2006 found that 51% oppose same-sex marriage, with 39% supporting it, and the level of "strongly opposing" same-sex marriage has fallen from 42% to 28%. Pew's May 2008 Survey found that for the first time, a majority of people do not oppose same-sex marriage at 49%. 20% oppose and 29% Strongly oppose same-sex marriage, up 1% from the March 2006 Pew Research Results.
Commentators have noted instances where polling data has overstated voter opposition to referendums banning same-sex marriage; some have suggested that there may be a variation of the "Bradley Effect" in which individuals opposed to same-sex marriage are reluctant to express their true views to pollsters. In 2010, a study by an assistant professor at New York University analyzed the previous 10 years of polling data and election results. He concluded that "Polls on gay marriage ballot initiatives generally under-estimate the opposition to gay marriage by about seven percentage points" and that the "Bradley Effect" was not a factor in the difference between the polls and the election outcomes.
When the Defense of Marriage Act was signed in 1996, only 25% of the American public supported same-sex marriage; support has increased gradually ever since. California's Proposition 8, passed 52%-48% by voters after a controversial campaign in 2008, has been declared unconstitutional by two federal courts but remains in litigation; polling in 2012 shows 59% of California voters approve of same-sex marriage.
After President Barack Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage on May 9, 2012, among cultural groups, 59 percent of African-Americans in most recent surveys express support – up from 41 percent in combined ABC/Post polls from Spring 2012 and the summer of 2011. Likewise, 65 percent support Obama's new position on the issue. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced its formal support shortly after President Obama's endorsement. Fewer whites, 46 percent, approve of Obama’s announcement, and 50 percent support same-sex marriage – numerically (albeit not statistically significant) the fewest since 2010. Hispanic/Latino support hovers generally around the 60% mark.
|Age||% of U.S. population|
|18–29 years old||81|
|18–39 years old||70|
|30–39 years old||53|
|40–64 years old||55|
|50–64 years old||57|
|65 years old and up||44|
It has been noted that the biggest factor in the growth of support for same sex marriage and civil unions has been driven by younger Americans, including some young conservatives, who are far more favorably inclined to both civil unions and same sex marriage than seniors. In one meta-analysis by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University, a majority of 18–29 year old Americans in 38 states support same sex marriage while in only 6 states do less than 45% of 18–29 year olds support same-sex marriage. At the same time not a single state shows support for same-sex marriage greater than 35% amongst those 64 and older. The result is that even in the state with the greatest overall support for same-sex marriage, those 64 and older will be less supportive of same-sex marriage than 18–29 year olds in the state least receptive to same-sex marriage. This suggests that, over time, same sex marriage will continue to gain support simply due to the increasing number of more supportive youth and the decrease of less supportive, seniors. Lax and Phillips also suggest a "tipping point" effect at which point support for same-sex marriage begins to grow increasingly quickly once a certain level of support is reached by the population. This would explain why support for gay rights has increased more quickly among all age groups in states that were initially the most supportive of gay rights than in states with low initial levels of support.
Pew polling shows that older generations show less support for same-sex marriage than newer ones. Over the years 2001 through 2011, those born between 1928 and 1945 increased their support from 21% to 32%; those born between 1946 and 1964 increased their support from 32 to 37 percent; and those born between 1965 and 1980 decreased support from 49% to 46%. The generation born in 1981 and later was first tracked in 2003, when they voiced 51% support; by 2011, that figure had risen to 64%.
|Education||% of U.S. population|
|High School or less||54|
By household income
|Household Income||% of U.S. population|
By political ideology
|Political Ideology||% of U.S. population|
By political party
|Political Party||% of U.S. population|
|18 to 49 year old Democrats and Dem-leaning independents||73|
|50 to 64 year old Democrats and Dem-leaning independents||73|
|65 year old and up Democrats and Dem-leaning independents||64|
|18 to 49 year old Republicans and Rep-leaning independents||52|
|50 to 64 year old Republicans and Rep-leaning independents||37|
|65 year old and up Republicans and Rep-leaning independents||25|
|Ethnicity||% of U.S. population|
|Religion||% of U.S. population|
|White non-evangelical Protestant||70|
|White evangelical Protestant||31|
By registered voters
|Registered voters||% of U.S. population|
|Region||% of U.S. population|
|Sex||% of U.S. population|
|US states||% of state population|
States in which polls showed majority support for same-sex marriage in recent years include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, along with the District of Columbia. In 2013, polls showed that 24 US states and the District of Columbia, now support same-sex marriage.
While the population of the New England states are generally accepting of same sex marriages, polls show that the population of Iowa, a state in the Mid-West which recognizes same-sex marriage, does not have a majority in favor of same sex marriage. A poll from Iowa conducted for the Des Moines Register indicates that Iowans are evenly divided over a state constitutional amendment that would overturn the Iowa court decision, with a plurality disagreeing with the decision and a vast majority (92%) stating that the decision hasn't impacted their lives. Polling prior to the state supreme court decision legalizing same sex marriage place support in the high thirties or low forties. A breakdown of voter opinion by age brackets in Iowa, as elsewhere, showed younger Iowans overwhelmingly supporting same sex unions; 60% of those in the 18-30 age bracket supported same-sex marriage in an April 2009 poll.
Support for same sex unions does not guarantee state Supreme Court decisions or legislative action. New York voters have registered consistent support for same sex unions in polling dating back to 2005. However, New York state government did not grant marriage licenses to same sex couples until July 2011. Similarly, there is robust support in most states for either same sex marriage or civil unions, but due to past initiatives, legislation, and/or constitutional amendments, these states currently ban same sex unions. Thirty states currently have constitutional amendments against same sex marriage. Some of those amendments, such as those in Virginia, Ohio, and Wisconsin ban both marriages and civil unions. However, several states are now considering reversing bans that have recently been enacted. Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah, opposed same-sex marriage but supported civil unions; a spokesman summarized, "His position on that issue is the same as President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney."
Public opinion on same sex marriage and unions in the United States thus reveals a great deal of change in a short period of time and significant regional disparity. While New England, the Pacific Coast and northern Middle Atlantic states may support full-fledged marriage, comparisons of polling from a decade past to today reveals significant growth in support for same sex marriages and civil unions in those regions. Meanwhile polling from other regions show that while support for same sex marriages or civil unions have increased across the country, the growth of support is not uniform, with a significantly lower level of support occurring in the Deep South compared to the rest of the country. Given the wide diversity of opinions within the U.S., many supporters of same sex unions believe that the most accurate way to discuss support for same sex unions in the United States is on a state-by-state or region-to-region basis.
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- List of supporters of same-sex marriage in the United States
- List of opponents of same-sex marriage in the United States
- Societal attitudes toward homosexuality
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- "Hawkeye Poll: Majority of Iowans support recognition of same-sex relationships", April 3, 2009, University of Iowa News Service
- Hawkeye Poll - Gay Marriage, April 2, 2009
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- "Bans in 3 States on Gay Marriage", November 5, 2008, The New York Times
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- Eve Conant (2011-06-21). "Jon Huntsman for President 2012: Candidate's Gay-Rights Shakeup". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2012-03-15.