A majority of voters don't support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, yet at the same time a majority also opposes a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
According to a Fox News poll released Wednesday, 37 percent of voters believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to get married legally. While that’s unchanged from 2010, when the question was most recently asked, it’s nearly double the 20 percent who felt that way in March 2004, the first time it was asked.
On the other hand, the poll finds 25 percent think there should be no legal recognition given to gay and lesbian relationships, down from 28 percent in 2010 and a high of 40 percent in 2004.
The remaining one third (33 percent) think same-sex couples should be allowed a legal partnership similar to but not called marriage. While that number has bounced around a bit over the years, 33 percent also favored this middle-ground position in 2004.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney favors a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Thirty-eight percent of American voters agree with him, while 53 percent oppose such an amendment.
That’s a reversal in national opinion from March 2004, when the question was last asked. At that time, 52 percent of voters favored amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage and 40 percent were opposed.
President Obama recently announced he had changed his position and now supports same-sex marriage. A 62-percent majority thinks Obama’s reversal came about because he was pressured by same-sex marriage proponents and needed their campaign donations and support in the election. Twenty-seven percent of voters think he truly had a change of heart.
Among Democrats, 46 percent think Obama truly changed his mind and 38 percent think the move was for political gain. For Republicans, 7 percent think it was a sincere shift and 88 percent consider it a political move.
Looking ahead 20 years down the road, nearly two-thirds of voters think same-sex couples will be able to marry in most states, including 26 percent who think it will be allowed in every state.
Views among Demographic Groups
Fifty-seven percent of Democrats think gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, up from 33 percent in 2004. Among Republicans, 13 percent support same-sex marriage, up from 7 percent in 2004. For independents, 34 percent believe gays should be allowed to marry, up from 19 percent eight years ago.
In 2004, some 13 percent of voters ages 65 and over believed same-sex marriage should be allowed. Today that’s nearly doubled to 25 percent.
Those most likely to support allowing gays and lesbians to marry include liberals (65 percent), Democrats (57 percent), people under age 30 (53 percent), and voters living in the Northeast (49 percent) and Western (48 percent) regions of the country.
Those who identify as “very” conservative (51 percent), white evangelical Christians (47 percent), voters who are part of the Tea Party movement (43 percent), Republicans (38 percent) and voters living in rural areas (37 percent) are among those most likely to say there should be no legal recognition for same-sex relationships.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 913 randomly-chosen registered voters nationwide and is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from May 13 to May 15. For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.