Press Release

11/17/06

Post-Election Poll Shows Progress On Gay And Lesbian Issues

National Survey, Election Results Shows Gains for Civil Unions

Washington, DC – Nearly two-thirds of voters support some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, and seven of ten voters believe that civil unions will be permitted throughout the country within ten years, according to a post-election survey of 19,356 voters released today. The online poll of actual voters was conducted by Zogby International for Third Way. The poll also found widespread opposition to a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“These findings underscore a trend that we saw in races across the nation – the march of progress for gay and lesbian equality,” said Matt Nosanchuk, a Senior Policy Fellow at Third Way.

Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Couples Widely and Increasingly Supported

When asked where they stood on legal recognition of same-sex couples, 28% supported marriage, 37% supported civil unions, and 33% supported no legal recognition. The combined total of 65% favoring some form of legal recognition for same-sex relationships is a 5-point gain from the 2004 national election exit poll surveys.

When the choice was between civil unions or no legal recognition, the margin was 61-35% in favor of civil unions (63-31% among Independents). Civil unions were supported in every region of the country and among all age groups, but voters aged 18-34 supported civil unions by the largest margin, 72-23%.

By a margin of 60-36%, voters said that civil unions represent a “reasonable compromise between full marriage rights and no legal recognition. (70% agree that civil unions are different than marriage.) Only 33% of voters believe that civil unions “weaken traditional marriage.” And by a margin of 70-26%, voters expect civil unions to be legal nationwide within ten years.

Constitutional Amendments Banning Same-Sex Marriage Have Lost Impact as a Wedge

“Although seven of the eight state constitutional bans passed, these bans seem to have lost their impact as a wedge issue,” said Rachel Laser, a Third Way Senior Policy Advisor. “Social conservatives hoping to use the same-sex marriage ban as an electoral strategy may have to rethink their plans.”

In many of the states where same-sex marriage bans were on the ballot, Republicans, who as a party are considered more supportive of such bans, were out-performed by Democrats. For example, in Virginia, Democrat Jim Webb opposed the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and beat the initiative’s strong proponent, Republican Senator George Allen. And in Colorado, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter opposed the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and supported the domestic partnership initiative, beating Republican candidate Congressman Bob Beauprez, who took the opposite positions.

These and other results seem to confirm the sentiments of Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who called the Wisconsin proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage a “lose-lose situation” and noted: “You had Reagan Democrats and socially conservative union members who wanted to vote yes [for the ban] . . . and then voted for [Democratic Governor] Doyle. . . And then you had liberals who voted no [on the ban] . . ., then voted for Democrats.”

The Senate race in Tennessee is further proof of the de-linking of state ballot initiatives with Republican success. Democrat Harold Ford Jr. lost to Republican running mate Bob Corker by just 3 points (48-51%), but the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage passed by more than 60 points (81-19%).

According to Third Way’s Nosanchuk: “While ballot initiatives banning gay marriage may have passed in some states, the overall trend is clear – Americans are looking for a way to make progress on gay and lesbian issues, and they have grown weary of divisiveness and malice from the anti-gay movement.”

Among the other key findings of the Third Way poll:

• By a margin of 72-22%, voters would support an openly gay or lesbian candidate for Congress who shares their views on the issues.

• By a margin of 49-39%, voters said that allowing civil unions throughout America would represent progress as opposed to evidence that America is on the wrong track.

• Only 18% of voters said that the Mark Foley scandal had any influence on their vote for Congress.

• Only 16% of voters said the New Jersey court decision on same-sex couples had any influence on their vote for Congress.

Contact: Matt Bennett (202) 775-3768 x212


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