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This Week in Polling: Voters Split on Gay Marriage But 33% Said Laws Should Be a State Decision

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fewer voters than ever now see marriage as a civil institution, and they’re still fairly torn on the issue of gay marriage.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 36% of Likely U.S. Voters consider marriage a civil institution rather than a religious one, down from 43% in February  and the lowest finding since polling on the question began in October 2013. Fourteen percent (14%) are not sure.  Fifty percent (50%) consider marriage a religious institution, in line with past sentiments. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

That could explain why voters are still fairly divided over the issue of gay marriage: 46% favor same-sex marriages, up from a low of 42%, while 41% oppose. Thirteen percent (13%) are undecided.

Support for gay marriage reached a high of 48% almost a year ago  and again in December, but then fell to 42% in February, tying the all-time low first reached in late 2013.

Voters are divided over who should handle laws regarding marriage. As the Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling on same-sex marriage,  35% of voters think laws governing marriage should be established by the federal government, in line with findings over the past two years. Nearly as many (33%) think marriage laws should be up to the states, which has been trending down since 2013. With few exceptions, voters have generally been more likely to prefer such laws in the states’ hands rather than the feds’. Just 11%, though, think marriage laws should be established on a local level, but 22% are not sure.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters nationwide was conducted on June 22-23, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Of the 76% who are either now married or have been married, 55% consider marriage a religious institution, while 34% consider it a civil one.

Unmarried voters are much more likely to support gay marriage, than married or previously married voters who are evenly divided on the issue.

Both married and unmarried voters are split over whether laws regarding marriage should be established on a federal or state level.

Women are slightly more supportive of gay marriage than men are, but are less likely to oppose it.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters under 40 support gay marriage, compared to 53% of voters over 65 who oppose it. Middle-aged voters are evenly divided.

Voters under 40 are also the most likely to see marriage as a civil institution rather than a religious one and are the most likely to think laws governing it should be left to the feds.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most Democrats (62%) favor gay marriage, while 64% of Republicans oppose it. Voters not affiliated with either major political party swing toward support by a 52% to 34% margin.

Most American Adults still consider marriage important, and those who are married rate it even more importantly.

Support for more gay and lesbian soldiers in the military has dropped to an all-time low among voters after being on the rise for more than a year. Just a third (32%) of voters now think the decision by the federal government to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly is good for the military, down from a high of 39% in October.

Just 43% of Americans favor openly gay and lesbian individuals in the pulpit, while 46% support open gays and lesbians holding senior leadership positions within the church in their respective faiths.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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