Poll: support for gay marriage soars to record high 58 percent

Washington Post/ABC News poll shows 'remarkable transformation in public attitudes' toward gay marriage, pollster says. Americans also want issue decided on basis of Constitution, not in state law.

Jim Mone/AP/File
Hundreds gathered at the State Capitol last month in St. Paul, Minn., where supporters of gay marriage called for Minnesota lawmakers to legalize gay marriage. Some 58 percent of Americans now say gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to get married, in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Support for same-sex marriage has reached a record high, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll reports.

Some 58 percent of Americans now say gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to get married, up from a low of 32 percent of registered voters just nine years ago in the Post/ABC poll. Support for gay marriage reached a narrow majority in the poll for the first time two years ago, according to ABC pollster Gary Langer.

“Results of this survey extend evidence of a remarkable transformation in public attitudes,” Mr. Langer writes. “Views on basic social issues often move slowly, if at all.”

Support for gay marriage, though, has gone from 47 percent to today’s 58 percent in the last three years, Langer adds. The poll result comes on the day a major politician – former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – announced her support for gay marriage, a signal that she may be preparing to run for president in 2016. President Obama publicly backed gay marriage last May.

Last Friday, a top Republican – Sen. Rob Portman (R) of Ohio, a short-lister for the Republican ticket in 2012 – also voiced support for gay marriage, revealing that his son is gay.

Younger Americans favor gay marriage much more widely than seniors. Eight-one percent of those under 30 favor it, while only 44 percent of senior citizens do.

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear two cases on gay marriage. One challenges California’s ban on gay marriage; the other is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples.

The poll found that by a wide margin, 64 to 33 percent, Americans want the legality of gay marriage to be decided “on the basis of the US Constitution,” not state by state. Currently, marriage laws are set by each state individually.

Gay marriage is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Another eight states provide for civil unions. In 31 states, gay marriage is prohibited by state constitutional amendment.

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