02/27/2004 - Gay marriage has surpassed other major social issues like abortion and gun control in its influence on voters. Four-in-ten voters say they would not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on gay marriage, even if they agree with the candidate on most other issues. By comparison, 34% say they would not support a candidate who disagrees with them on abortion and 32% expressed that opinion about a candidate's stance on gun control.
Yet while gay marriage has a greater overall impact on voters than either abortion or gun control, the nature of its influence is quite different. For the most part, gay marriage is a make-or-break voting issue only to the opponents of that idea; supporters of gay marriage generally say a candidate's stance would not affect their vote. Moreover, even among gay marriage opponents, the issue has a disproportionate impact on some groups notably conservative Republicans, evangelical Christians and voters age 65 and older.
The latest Pew Research Center national survey shows that voters oppose gay marriage by more than two-to-one (65%-28%), a margin that has remained generally steady since October. (This survey was conducted Feb. 11-16, prior to President Bush's Feb. 24 announcement that he would support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage). (This analysis based on registered voters only; topline based on general public.)
Other recent national surveys have found that, in spite of the broad opposition to gay marriage, the public is divided over a constitutional amendment to ban the practice. An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Feb. 18-22 showed that 46% support a constitutional amendment while 45% believe it should be up to each state to make its own laws regarding homosexual marriage.