Tipping Point?

April 30, 2009 1:41 p.m.

I think most of us can see that despite some painful setbacks, and likely more to come, time is definitely on the side of marriage equality in the United States. But are we hitting some sort of tipping point under a new administration and with a rush of recent successes in several states around the country?

A few days ago, the NYT/CBS poll showed support for full marriage equality jumped a full 9 points over the course of one month — from 33% support last month to 42% this month. According to NYT/CBS that’s now the plurality position — with the ‘nos’ divided between 28% oppose any legal recognition and 25% supporting civil unions. The overall numbers are very encouraging. But I was inclined to chalk the dramatic move over the course of a month up to statistical noise.

But a new poll out just this afternoon from ABC/WAPO shows 49% of the population supporting full marriage equality versus 46% opposing, the first time more have supported than opposed. We don’t have a similar question in a recent ABC/WAPO poll. The last time the question was asked was in 2006 when 36% supported and 58% opposed (in itself a dramatic shift over a less than three years).

The counterpoint is a Quinnipiac poll that came out today showing 38% support and 55% opposition — virtually unchanged from when Quinnipiac asked a similar question question last year (for 36%, con 55%). But here too the difference may be rooted in a subtle difference in the way the question was asked.

Last year Quinnipiac asked “In general, do you support or oppose same-sex marriage?” — a similar wording to the other polls. But this year their question read: “Would you support or oppose a law in your state that would allow same-sex couples to get married?” (emphasis added).

It’s speculation. But adding “in your state” may trigger a bit more discomfort in people who are only just warming to the idea.

All told, though, the trend, perhaps an accelerating one, is quite encouraging.

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