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North Carolina marriage ban lead is shrinking

by Eric Ferguson on April 26, 2012

PPP has come out with a poll showing the marriage ban constitutional amendment in North Carolina is still likely to pass, but the lead is shrinking.

Momentum is turning against North Carolina’s proposed marriage amendment.  PPP’s newest poll finds only 54% of voters in the state planning to support it, while 40% are opposed. This is the lowest level of support PPP has found in monthly polling of the amendment since last October. When PPP first polled on it six months ago 61% supported it with only 34% opposed, so its current 14 point lead has been cut almost in half from the 27 point advantage it started out with.

This part sounds like Minnesota:

When voters are informed that the proposed amendment would preclude both marriage and civil unions for gay couples only 38% continue to support it with 46% in opposition. Voters obviously will be more tuned into the amendment debate over the final two weeks of the campaign than they have been to date, particularly as the against side’s tv ads hit the air, and it seems quite possible that as voters become more and more informed about the amendment they will continue to move more and more against it.

PPP found this last year in Minnesota, that some respondents were held up by the word “marriage”. When those who support full marriage equality are added to those who would be OK with something like civil unions, there’s a strong majority ready for some sort of legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Presumably Minnesotans are unclear on what the amendments bans, since North Carolinians are pretty confused about their similar amendment:

There is some reason to think a huge upset in two weeks is within the realm of possibility. 53% of voters in the state support either gay marriage or civil unions, with only 44% opposed to any recognition for same sex couples. The proposed amendment would ban both gay marriage and civil unions, but voters continue to be confused about that. Just 36% correctly identify that it would ban both while 26% think it bans only gay marriage, 10% think it actually legalizes gay marriage, and 27% admit that they don’t know what it does.

Unfortunately early voting has already begun in North Carolina, so that “two weeks” is effectively less than that. The most likely outcome is marriage opponents will win, but much more narrowly than at first expected. Minnesota doesn’t have early voting, though more of us use absentee voting as a form of early voting than we used to, and we’ll be voting during the general election rather than the primary, so that might make some difference. Hard to know which way though. North Carolina’s results suggest that we can’t assume voters understand what the amendment does and may be unaware or just wrong even close to election day.

PPP broke out results by generation, and it sounds like Minnesota:

The other thing that really stands out in these numbers is the views of young people. Only 31% of voters under 30 now say they support the amendment, with 62% in opposition. As Thom Tillis has said, regardless of what happens on this vote in two weeks, the tide is strongly turning. Seniors meanwhile are nearly the mirror image of young people on the issue, supporting the amendment 63/31.

PPP also identified where the pro-marriage momentum has come from:

The main movement over the last month has been with Democratic voters. Previously they were almost evenly divided on the amendment but now they’re moving against it with only 38% still in support and 56% opposed. A big part of that is a shift among black voters. They still support it by a 51/39 margin, but that’s well down from 61/30 on our a poll a month ago.

I haven’t seen similar breakouts for Minnesota, so I won’t even guess at how support varies among racial groups. We know from Minnesota polls that a substantial minority of DFLers support the ban, larger than the minority of Republicans who oppose it, which indicates not just that DFLers have more persuading to do among themselves, but with the overall vote essentially tied, persuading DFLers should be enough to win.  

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