Fox News poll: Same-sex marriage continues to divide nation

A new Fox News poll shows that 46 percent of voters favor legalizing gay marriage and 47 percent oppose it.

That’s little changed from earlier this year when it was 46-46 percent (February 2013), or from last fall when it was 42-44 percent (October 2012).

On the separate question of whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry, a slim 52-percent majority says it does, while 45 percent disagree.

Even more people -- 56 percent -- think each state should have the power to decide whether or not to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot.

Same-sex marriage is a complicated issue for many people given the moral and legal considerations.  And as the poll results suggest, some people hold inconsistent views.  Consider this: a third of those who think a state should be allowed to ban same-sex marriage, also believe gay marriage is a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

Views on same-sex marriage vary widely based on age and political party.  For example, most people under age 35 are in favor of legalizing it (64 percent), while a majority of those over age 65 oppose it (55 percent).  And most Democrats support gay marriage (65 percent), while most Republicans oppose it (69 percent).

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon announce its decisions on two same-sex marriage cases -- one concerning the Defense of Marriage Act and the other California’s Proposition 8.

The sharply divided views held today represent a major shift from a decade ago.  In 2003, when the question was first asked on a Fox News poll, 32 percent of voters said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry legally, and 58 percent were opposed.

Finally, 39 percent of voters approve of “changing the definition of the word marriage to also include same-sex couples,” up from 25 percent in 2004.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,019 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from June 9 to June 11.  The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.