Poll finds opposition to gay marriage slipping
A poll conducted for a religious conservative group that has worked to defeat gay-rights laws in Washington state found that fewer than half of registered voters surveyed last month oppose same-sex marriage. The poll comes as gay lawmakers consider a push for a same-sex-marriage law in the state and groups opposed to gay marriage gear up to fight them.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A poll conducted for a religious conservative group that has worked to defeat gay-rights laws in Washington state found fewer than half of voters surveyed last month say they oppose same-sex marriage.
The results represent the first time that support for Faith and Freedom Network's position on the question of marriage equality in Washington slipped below 50 percent.
The findings come as some state lawmakers consider a push for same-sex marriage and a consortium of religious conservatives gears up to fight them.
The telephone survey of 408 registered voters, conducted for Faith and Freedom by Elway Research, asked respondents: "Do you support legalizing homosexual marriage in Washington state?" — language gay-rights groups call jarring enough to turn some people off.
Pollster Stuart Elway said the word "homosexual" was the group's choice — not his. The results showed 48 percent of respondents answered "no" to the question, and 44 percent answered "yes."
Two years ago, when another Faith and Freedom poll asked, "Should homosexuals be allowed to legally marry?" 50 percent of respondents said no and 43 percent said yes. An earlier Seattle Times poll by Elway also showed opposition to gay marriage at 50 percent.
Given a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, the change is hardly revolutionary and indicates less support for same-sex marriage in Washington state than the nation as a whole, where a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. But it could offer some insight into attitudes around a volatile political issue sure to ignite next year.
State Sen. Ed Murray, the state's longest-serving openly gay lawmaker, has said all along he wanted to build incrementally toward marriage equality, beginning with the creation of a domestic-partnership law four years ago.
The state's domestic-partnership provisions, completed in 2009, grant gay and lesbian and some senior couples the same state benefits of marriage offered traditional married couples.
Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, who is also an openly gay Seattle Democrat, acknowledged recently they are in discussions with community and legislative leaders about trying to pass a same-sex-marriage law this session.
Gary Randall, president of Faith and Freedom, said his group and its allies are prepared to fight such a measure in the Legislature if it comes to that and "definitely run a referendum if this goes through."
He said the September survey is the first step in a broader strategy to defend traditional marriage in Washington state.
Randall dismissed the slight loss of support for his side indicated in the poll, saying it's difficult to know whether comparisons make sense, given the passage of time.
"There's a constant erosion of traditional principles and values by education and the media," he said. "Kids are being indoctrinated in schools and bullied into accepting homosexuality."
Josh Friedes, director of marriage equality for Equal Rights Washington (ERW), noted results of a recent poll by Strategies 360, a Seattle-based strategic communications firm, that shows 54 percent of Washingtonians believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry. The survey was not commissioned by any group.
Furthermore, he said, a July poll conducted for his organization, which supports gay-rights causes statewide, showed 52 percent of people believe same-sex marriage should be legal.
The results, Friedes said, are consistent with those of a recent ABC/Washington Post poll that show support for same-sex marriage topping 50 percent.
"For the first time, polls in Washington are showing a majority support for marriage equality, and even the opposition can't muster a poll that shows they have a majority," Friedes said.
Still, he said supporters of marriage equality can take none of this for granted. His group is prepared to support lawmakers if they go forward with a marriage bill, he said, and to defend such a law against any attempt to repeal it.
"We have to spend the next year undertaking a massive educational campaign to make sure voters in the middle understand why marriage equality is good for Washington state," Friedes said.
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420
Trending on seattletimes.com
Most viewed photo galleries
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
Career Center Blog
Sign up for our newsletter
Get creative suggestions for making your house a home weekly in your inbox!