Pew Poll: Americans Now Evenly Split On Legalizing Gay Marriage

March 3, 2011 11:27 a.m.

A new Pew poll shows adult Americans evenly split over whether gays and lesbians should be legally allowed to marry — and there’s a clear trend of Americans’ views becoming increasingly favorable toward the ssue over the past few years.

That finding comes just weeks after the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend key elements of the Defense of Marriage Act — the federal law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman — in court. And it also shows that Republicans may not have an upper hand in next years’ presidential election if they try to thrust social issues to the forefront of the debate.According to the poll, a slim 46% plurality of Americans say gay marriage should not be legal. However, 45% said it should be legal, and with a 3% margin of error in the poll, that places the results into a statistical tie.

Further, the latest findings further a clear trend of Americans becoming more and more receptive to the idea of gay marriage.

In 2009, Pew found that 54% of Americans opposed gay marriage, while only 37% were in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry. One year later, that split shrank to 48% opposed, and 42% in favor. If the trend holds, it might not be long before public opinion on the issue flips and more people support rather than oppose gay marriage.

Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement saying the administration believed parts of DOMA were unconstitutional, and as such they would no longer defend them in court. That decision prompted some backlash from Republicans, including presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich, who said that decision was possibly an impeachable offense.

Another potential Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, also criticized the decision, saying it put Obama squarely against public opinion on the issue. According to the Pew poll, that’s not exactly the case.

The Pew poll was conducted February 22 through March 1 among 1,504 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of 3.0%.

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