Why Language Matters: 61% of NJ Voters Support Marriage Equality

At GLAAD, we know that words and images matter. A new Rutgers-Eagleton poll about marriage equality underscores the importance of language.

The poll, which sought to determine levels of support for same-sex relationship recognition in New Jersey, found that 52%  of New Jersey voters believe that “same-sex marriages" should be legal. But this support increased by nine percentage points with the change of just a few words.

When voters were asked if they supported “marriage equality,” 61% said yes.

The poll similarly found that while 39% of voters oppose legalizing “gay marriage,” only 27% are against “marriage equality.” That’s a decrease of 12 percentage points.

These findings highlight how important it is for media outlets to be mindful of the words they choose to use. The phrase “gay marriage” suggests that gay and lesbian couples would enjoy a different kind of marriage, whereas “marriage equality” more accurately implies that gay and lesbian couples want to be part of the institution of marriage as it exists now.

There is no such thing as a “same-sex marriage” — marriages between same-sex spouses are no different than marriages between opposite-sex spouses. Language that suggests otherwise, as this poll clearly indicates, has a significant impact on how people see the issue. As was found during public polling over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the way questions are phrased has an enormous impact on the responses they garner. GLAAD always encourages media outlets to present issues as fairly as possible, which can be done, in part, by using the most accurate language available. Only by doing this can coverage of marriage equality truly be considered responsible.