Americans Narrowly Favor Same-Sex Marriage And Overwhelmingly Expect It Will Be Legal In 30 Years

March 20, 2013, 1:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 3/16/2013) Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which restricted recognition of marriage by the federal government only to those between a man and a woman. Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll would overturn that law, and by an even larger margin think the legality of same-sex marriages should be decided by states, not the federal government.

DOMA was passed in 1996, when both houses of Congress were controlled by Republicans (although with Democratic President Bill Clinton’s signature and votes from most Democratic Representatives and Senators as well), and support for it has a distinct partisan component. Democrats want it repealed by a 68% to 22% margin. Republicans would uphold it 77% to 15%. Independents also favor repeal. Women support repeal, men are evenly divided.

But those patterns don’t necessarily hold when it comes to the question of whether determining the legality of same-sex marriage is a power that should belong to the federal government or to the states. Republicans overwhelmingly say this should be a state power, while Democrats would cede responsibility to the federal government.

Support for gay and lesbian marriages has grown. In this poll, about half favor allowing same-sex marriages, while 42% oppose that. Party differences are stark: 68% of Democrats favor same-sex marriages, and 79% of Republicans oppose them.

As recently as two years ago, a majority of Americans said that gay marriages were “immoral.”

Most Americans don’t think permitting same-sex marriages would have any impact on traditional male-female pairings. Nearly one in ten thinks they would benefit traditional marriages, but 32% believe they threaten those marriages. That belief is held by majorities of Republicans and conservatives.

But whether or not they are happy about the prospect of same-sex marriages, Americans think they will be legal in all 50 states within 30 years – basically within the expected lifetime of most of the poll’s respondents. 68% believe same-sex marriages will be recognized within the entire country 30 years from now; less than a third disagrees.

Even majorities of Republicans and conservatives, most of whom oppose gay marriage, expect it is on its way, and will be legal before mid-century.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association