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Polls split on likelihood of passage

David Donovan//April 17, 2012

Polls split on likelihood of passage

David Donovan//April 17, 2012

Two polls measuring the likelihood of passage of Amendment One show significantly different results – but that split might be traced to how they asked the question.

Public Policy Polling shows the amendment passing by a comfortable margin. But the most recent poll by Elon University shows 61 percent opposed.

Dustin Ingalls, assistant director for PPP, noted that his firm polls likely voters, while Elon polls all adults, but said that the biggest difference was that his firm offered respondents the precise language that will appear on the ballot May 8. In contrast, Elon’s poll described the amendment and explained its ramifications.

Polls split on likelihood of passageConsistent with that explanation, PPP found that when voters received more information about the amendment, support decreased significantly in their own polls.

“We find that support goes down 17 points when voters are informed that the amendment would prohibit not only same-sex marriage but also civil unions,” Ingalls said. “That’s because 51 percent of these primary voters support some form of legal recognition for gay couples, whether full marriage rights or civil unions.”

When PPP only quoted the precise language of the amendment, it found that 58 percent of voters supported the proposal, with 38 percent opposed. When informed that the amendment would also prohibit civil unions, opinion on the amendment is nearly evenly split, and the number of voters who say they’re undecided increases significantly.

“The reason we see such movement is that voters just don’t know what the amendment would do.  Seven percent think a yes vote would actually legalize gay marriage,” Ingalls said.

To date, 29 states have voted on same-sex marriage amendments. Only one, Arizona, has ever rejected an amendment, and Arizona later passed a more narrowly drawn amendment. Support for such amendments has been slowly ebbing, though. Younger voters are less likely to support such measures than older voters, something that Ingalls said showed up in PPP’s polling.

Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, told a crowd of students at North Carolina State University in March that he thinks that if the amendment passes, it will be repealed within 20 years because of the shifting attitudes.

Although he agreed with Tillis on that point, Ingalls says he expects the amendment to pass on May 8 with around 55 percent of the vote.

Making any changes to a constitutional amendment, whether to repeal or merely to clarify its effects on other areas of family law, would require the same three-fifths vote of both houses of the legislature needed to put the original amendment on the ballot.

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