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Big racial, ethnic divide remains in L.A. on gay marriage, Times Poll finds [Updated]

June 19, 2009 |  1:14 pm



In the state’s continuing political battles over gay marriage, both sides are targeting Latino voters, and a new Los Angeles Times poll illustrates why. Overall, the poll showed, a substantial majority of voters in Los Angeles support the right of same-sex couples to legally marry, with 56% in favor and 37% opposed.

That finding closely tracked the results of November’s election in which Proposition 8, which limited marriage to unions of a man and a woman, won statewide but lost in the city of Los Angeles. But the poll also showed that within the city, views on the issue differed widely among racial and ethnic groups.

White voters were most emphatic in their support for same-sex marriage, with 68% supporting it and 27% opposing. African American voters were strongly against it, with 54% opposing same-sex marriage and 37% supporting it.

Opposition to gay marriage by African Americans was widely seen as a major factor contributing to the passage of Proposition 8. Latinos in the current poll were split, with 45% supporting same-sex marriage and 46% opposing.

Within the Latino population, there were additional divisions: women, the young and people with college educations offered more backing for gay marriage than men, older voters and those with fewer years of schooling. Since the passage of Proposition 8, political analysts have suggested that statewide support for same-sex marriage is only a matter of time, and the poll offered support for that idea.

Among Los Angeles voters, support for same-sex marriage grew consistently stronger as the age of respondents decreased.

Among those age 18-29, 66% said same-sex marriages should be recognized as valid, while 29% disagreed.

The percentage of support declined slightly with each increment of age; those age 50-64 supported gay marriage by a narrower 55%-39% margin. The only voters to oppose same-sex marriage in greater numbers than those who backed it were those older than 64. In that group, 43% supported legal gay marriages and 48% were opposed.

The Times Poll was conducted for The Times by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in conjunction with Public Opinion Strategies, both based in Washington, D.C. The poll questioned 1,500 registered voters in the city of Los Angeles from June 10-16. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

-- Cathleen Decker

Check Sunday's Los Angeles Times for full results of the new Times Poll on topics including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's political future, the city's budget deficit and a look ahead at next year's race for governor.

 Photo: L.A. Times

[Updated 1:42 p.m. An earlier version of the headline on this article said L.A. voters were divided along racial and ethnic lines on Proposition 8. The poll asked for opinions on same-sex marriage, not on the ballot initiative specifically.]

More coverage:

The Times answers reader questions about Prop. 8

Times Prop. 8 voting results map

Full coverage of Prop. 8 on L.A. Now

Times gay marriage interactive map