On August 4th, Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that California's ban on marriage between gay and lesbian couples violates the US Constitution. According to CNN pollsters, nearly half of America agrees - and more than half feel that gay and lesbian couples should have the right to get married.
The full results of the poll can be seen here.
Researchers asked "Do you think gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid?" 49% of Americans said yes - a four percent jump over another poll conducted just last year. 51% said no, a three percent drop from last year. (Last year, 1% had no opinion. This year, that was not the case.)
Researchers then asked a second sample "Do you think gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid?" (emphasis added) Here, for what's believed to be the first time, 52% of Americans said yes. 46% said no, and the other 2% had no opinion.
This is in keeping with a May Gallup poll, which found for the first time that a majority of Americans perceive gay and lesbian relationships to be "morally acceptable."
The CNN poll's first question broke down this way: Women were more inclined to say that the constitution allows gay and lesbian couples to marry than men were, 50% to 45%. And Americans under 50 years old were far more likely to agree than those over 50, by a 20 point margin. (58%-38%) Politically, Independents were even more likely than Democrats to say the US Constitution grants gay and lesbian couples the rights to marry, 57% to 56%. (27% of Republicans agreed.)
In the second question, the results were more skewed. When asked whether gay and lesbian couples SHOULD have the right to marry (rather than whether the constitution already grants them that right) women said yes a full 30 points higher than men, 67%-37%. Also, with the question being rephrased, far more Democrats (67%) supported marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Republicans also increased their support, to 32%, but Independents were less supportive, at 55%. The age gap remained the same.
Much of the discussion since last week's ruling in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger has been about the legal impact of Judge Walker's decision. This poll, conducted just days after the ruling, calls into question whether its societal impact could be just as important.