The Elon Poll of registered voters from September finds that supporters are slightly more prevalent than opponents, 45 percent versus 43 percent, although the opinion gap is statistically indistinguishable at high levels of confidence. Likewise, the American Insights Poll conducted at the same time found registered voters were evenly divided, 46 percent vs 46 percent. Among likely voters, opponents were more frequent, 48% vs. 44%. I have not seen a poll on the same topic with a representative sample of adults in North Carolina, though I would guess it would measure higher support for gay marriage compared to these results by about 2-3%.
It was interesting to see that both the Elon Poll and American Insights reached nearly identical conclusions despite asking the question quite differently. Elon simply asked, “Do you support of oppose gay marriage?” Conversely, AI asked, “Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?” Despite these differences, their findings were largely parallel, suggesting people are reporting firmly held opinions impervious to changes in question wording.
I was also intrigued by another question AI asked about how best to decide the debate over gay marriage. AI asked, “Regardless of your own preference on the same-sex marriage issue, do you believe North Carolina law defining marriage should be determined by voters or courts?” Just 26 percent said the courts should decide the issue, while 62 percent said voters. Despite the instructions to disregard their own preference, I looked and found that just 51 percent of supporters of gay rights thought voters should decide the outcome, but 77 percent of opponents wanted voters to decide. It appears each side has accurately surveyed the political landscape and knows which option is most likely to secure their preference. Although, in this case, I’d argue surveys show that opponents are racing against time.