Poll analysis by Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus
(CBS NEWS) -- As
the Supreme Court begins to hear oral arguments in cases involving two
high-profile laws to do with same-sex marriage - California's
Proposition 8 and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act -53 percent of
Americans think it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry, while
39 percent say it should not be legal.
opinion on this topic has been consistent for the last few months, it
has reversed markedly from as recently as a year ago. In May 2012, just
after President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex
marriage, 51 percent of Americans said it should not be legal for
same-sex couples to marry.
The poll suggests the extent
to which people's views have changed. Thirty-three percent of Americans
who now think same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry say
they once held the opposite view.
When asked why they changed their minds, one in five volunteers
that personally knowing someone who is gay or lesbian was the deciding
factor (20 percent). Other reasons mentioned include being more tolerant
now (17 percent), more educated now (17 percent), or that is the modern
way of thinking about the issue (12 percent).
awareness of gays and lesbians in their own lives has grown over the
past ten years. In 2003, most Americans said they did not have a work
colleague, close friend, or family member who was gay or lesbian. Today,
six in 10 Americans say they do.
personally who is gay or lesbian appears to be an important factor in
how Americans feel about the issue of same-sex marriage. While
two-thirds of Americans with a close relationship to someone who is gay
or lesbian think same-sex marriage should be legal, most without such a
close relationship don't think so.
Most Americans under
age 45 believe same-sex marriage should be legal, including 73 percent
of those under 30. Americans between 45 and 64 are divided, while 52
percent of seniors do not think it should be legal.
most Democrats (63 percent) and independents (56 percent) favor
legalization of same-sex marriage, while most Republicans (56 percent)
do not. Still, support for same-sex marriage among Republicans has
increased from just 13 percent in May 2012 (after the President
announced his support of same-sex marriage) to 37 percent today.
This poll was conducted by telephone from March 20-24, 2013 among
1,181 adults nationwide. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both
standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for
results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three
percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll
release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council
on Public Polls.