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Majority in California support gay marriage, Times/USC poll finds

April 6, 2010 |  7:33 am

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Same-sex marriage got majority support in the latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll -- much like a similar poll by the Public Policy Institute of California earlier this spring.

But does that mean that a measure to repeal Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state, would have smooth sailing?

Not necessarily.

First, the numbers: Registered voters surveyed in the latest poll said 52% to 40% that “same-sex couples should be allowed to become legally married in the state of California.” 

That’s the latest in a string of surveys that have found similar results. A PPIC poll released March 25 found respondents backing gay marriage 50% to 45%.  And a Times/USC poll last November found a 51% to 43% split on the issue. As with the previous surveys, the latest Times/USC poll showed a sharp polarization by political party and ideology, with Democrats and liberals supporting same-sex marriage by large margins and Republicans and conservatives opposing it by equally lopsided margins.

The poll also showed a huge variation by age, with registered voters younger than 30 supporting same-sex marriage by roughly 3 to 1, while a majority of those 64 and older were opposed.

That age division, also seen in every other poll on the issue, suggests that over time, the state’s electorate probably will become even more supportive of same-sex marriage -- unless today’s voters in their 20s become more socially conservative as they age. But the divide also poses a challenge for gay rights advocates: Older voters are substantially more likely to turn out to vote than younger voters.

That’s particularly true in non-presidential election years, when turnout in general tends to be lower. So compared with 2008, the electorate in 2010 is likely to have a higher representation of the age groups most opposed to same-sex marriage.

And 2008, of course, was the election in which Proposition 8 passed. No surprise, then, that gay rights groups have decided to sit this election out. The poll was conducted for The Times and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences by two polling firms, the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint.

The margin of error for the survey, which included 1,515 registered voters, was plus or minus 2.6 percentage points for the overall sample and slightly larger for smaller breakdowns. Questioning took place March 23-30.

-- David Lauter

Photo: Protesters in support of same-sex marriage march in downtown L.A. in 2009. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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