By Susan Ferris
The Modesto Bee
Despite the narrow passage of Proposition 8 in 2008, a slim majority of California registered voters favors allowing same-sex marriage, according to a Field Poll released today.
The poll’s results – 51 percent in favor, 42 percent opposed, 7 percent undecided – show big differences among age groups, geography and party affiliation.
The results were close to those the Field Poll found in May 2008, six months before voters banned gay marriage by approving Proposition 8, 52 to 48 percent.
The current survey also found that support for same-sex marriage drops below a majority when voters are given another option – civil unions.
Given that choice, less than half – 44 percent – of those polled said they favored marriage; 34 percent said they favored civil unions or domestic partnership; and 19 percent said they favored no legal recognition for gay couples.
If there is another vote to allow or reaffirm banning same-sex marriage, said Poll Director Mark DiCamillo, the new Field Poll results suggest “there’s enough flexibility to move in either direction.”
The poll comes as Californians wait for a historic opinion on Proposition 8 from U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco.
Walker will decide if Proposition 8 violates gay residents’ federal constitutional right to equal protection. His decision is expected to be appealed.
Today’s survey shows that Californians’ opinions on gay marriage have grown more approving over time.
In 1977, 59 percent of registered voters disapproved of allowing gays to wed.
One of the biggest divides, DiCamillo said, is between older and younger voters.
More than two-thirds of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 approve of allowing gay marriage, while a majority of those over 65 oppose it.
Voters between the ages of 18 and 39 who are members of ethnic minorities favor same-sex marriage by large margins – even though older ethnic minority voters are among some of the strongest opponents, DiCamillo said.
DiCamillo said he credits Proposition 8′s victory to aggressive outreach to Catholic voters, in particular, during the final days before the election.
“Catholics are one-quarter of California’s electorate,” DiCamillo said. “There is a Sunday before every Tuesday election,” he added, recalling how many Catholic priests reportedly spoke out against gay marriage from the pulpit before the Proposition 8 vote.
The current survey found that Catholics were split over gay marriage – 47 percent approving, 46 percent disapproving – while only 34 percent of Protestants approved and 57 percent were against.
Proposition 8 came after a five-month period in 2008 when gay couples in California were allowed to wed following a state Supreme Court decision ruling it unconstitutional to bar gays from marrying. But the high court later ruled that voters had a right to change the state’s constitution with Proposition 8.
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