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Poll shows growing support for same-sex marriage in California

by Michelle Salzman Boston
The poll found seniors in particular shifting toward support of same-sex marriage. (Photo/Danielle Madeley, Flickr)
Photo: The poll found seniors in particular shifting toward support of same-sex marriage. (Photo/Danielle Madeley, Flickr)

A majority of California voters believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry in the state, according to results from the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

Fifty-eight percent of Californians said they support the right for same-sex couples to marry, with 49 percent “strongly” in favor and 9 percent “not so strongly” in favor. Only 36 percent of voters said they oppose same-sex marriage in the state, with 30 percent “strongly” opposed and 6 percent “not so strongly” opposed.

Overall, support has climbed since a March 2010 USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll, which found 52 percent of Californians in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage and 40 percent opposed.

Seniors in particular are shifting toward support of same-sex marriage, the poll found. Californians over the age of 65 are now evenly split on the matter, with 47 percent opposed and 46 percent for legalization — an 11-point jump in favor of same-sex marriage from the March 2010 poll, which found 53 percent of seniors opposed and 35 percent in favor.

According to the latest poll, voters age 18 to 29 show the highest levels of support for the issue, with 76-21 percent in favor.

“There’s been an assumption for four years that support for same-sex marriage is driven by demographics, and there’s no question that we see much stronger support among younger voters than older voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “But that level of support among older voters is extremely important. What the shift among older voters shows is that this isn’t just a generational change, but that a whole cohort of voters is actually changing their position on the issue.”

The poll also found support for the issue increasing across party lines. Democrats favor legalizing same-sex marriage by 70-24 percent, up from 63-31 percent support in the March 2010 poll. A majority of Republicans oppose by 58-35 percent, down from 62-28 percent in 2010. Decline-to-state voters support gay marriage by 62-32 percent, similar to the March 2010 poll, which showed 62-30 percent in favor.

Overall, the poll found that Californians support legalizing same-sex marriage in the state across racial lines: 61-34 percent of white voters, 58-30 percent of Asian voters, 51-44 percent of Latino voters and 50-39 percent of black voters are all in favor.

Split on proposal for transgender students

The USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll also surveyed voters on a proposal for California schools to allow transgender students to participate on sports teams and to use bathrooms that correspond with the gender they most identify with, not their sex at birth.

Californians were split on the proposal, with 46 percent opposed to the idea and 43 percent in favor. Of those respondents, 36 percent said they “strongly” opposed the proposal and 11 percent “somewhat” opposed it. In contrast, 24 percent “strongly” favored the proposal and 19 percent said they “somewhat” favored it.

Parents were more sharply divided on the issue. California voters with children opposed the proposal by 52-39 percent, while those without children favored it by 45-44 percent.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted on May 27 to June 2 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,500 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Additional poll results and methodology are available here.

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