A small majority of California voters supports the right of same-sex couples to marry, but by a much larger margin, voters oppose efforts to place the issue back on the ballot next year, a new Los Angeles Times/USC poll has found.
Views on same-sex marriage were sharply polarized, with 66% of Democrats backing it, and 71% of Republicans in opposition. Nonpartisan voters were less enthusiastic than Democrats but still backed it, 59% to 34%. Overall, 51% of California voters favored marriage rights for gay couples, and 43% were opposed.
Strikingly, however, almost three in five Californians did not want to revisit the issue in 2010, just one election cycle after it last hit the ballot. In November of 2008, Californians voted 52% to 48% to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Same-sex marriage advocates have been split over whether to push for a new vote next year or wait until 2012, when the presidential contest will draw more voters to the polls than are expected to cast ballots next year. Supporters of gay marriage are also strategizing in other states but on Tuesday received a stiff rebuke when voters in Maine repealed a state measure that had granted marriage rights to same-sex couples.
The California findings come from a new Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California College of Letters, Arts and Sciences poll. The survey, which included 1,500 registered voters from Oct. 27 through Nov. 3. It was conducted for the Times and USC by two nationally prominent polling firms, the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
The survey showed that same-sex marriage continues to reverberate differently along racial and generational lines. A little more than half of whites backed it, while slightly fewer than half of African Americans and Latinos did. All three groups, however, opposed having to vote on it in 2010. (Asians were questioned by the poll and included in the overall sample, but their numbers were statistically too small to isolate.)
Young voters continued to be far more supportive of marriage rights than their elders. Among those aged 18 to 29, 71% said they supported same-sex marriage; among those 65 and older, 37% favored it. Younger voters were also one of the few groups who backed putting it on the 2010 ballot.
The difference in views by age probably explains, in part, the changing results in California on same-sex marriage. In 2000, voters outlawed it by a margin of 61% to 39%; opposition had slipped significantly by last November's ballot. Election results differ from poll results, of course, because not everyone polled will cast ballots.