Recent polls are showing consistent majority support across the country for the legalization of marriage for gay and lesbian couples. In an August poll conducted by the Associated Press, 58% of Americans believed same-sex couples should be entitled to the same government benefits as married heterosexual couples.
This reflected a steady increase from 51% in 2008 and 54% in 2009. Only 38% said in this most recent poll that the government should distinguish between these benefits, down from 43% in 2008 and 42% in 2009.
But the biggest jump came in support for full marriage - where the results were almost exactly reversed compared to last year. In the latest survey, 52% of Americans believed the federal government ought to give legal recognition to marriages for gay and lesbian couples, up from the 46% who supported this recognition in 2009. As big as this gain is, opposition to marriage fell by even more - to 46% from 53%.
These results come shortly after a similar trend was noted among CNN polls conducted this and last year. Last month’s CNN poll showed that 52% of Americans believe same-sex couples should have a constitutional right to marry and have their marriage seen as valid under the law, while 46% think the Constitution should not provide that right. In a question worded slightly differently, the poll simply asked respondents whether they think the Constitution already does grant gay and lesbian couples this right. The numbers shifted to 49% saying yes and 51% who said no in this version. Still, they show an increase in support, from 45% and 54% of Americans that respectively answered yes and no in CNN’s 2009 poll. As is always the case with these polls, there was a vast generational difference in opinion.
One statistician is estimating that a majority of citizens in a majority of states will support same-sex marriage by 2016. A political commentator for the L.A. Times, writing about President Obama’s hesitancy to support the issue, said the country wouldn't get there until 2012 or 2013. But if the CNN and AP polls are correct, we may actually be there now.
GLAAD will continue to closely monitor coverage of polls and public opinion on same-sex marriage, ensuring that our voices are heard and represented fairly, as the country continues to shift towards supporting equality.