While New Jersey’s Senate has just voted to pass same-sex marriage and the state House prepares to vote, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released this week shows that 54% of Garden State voters support legalizing same-sex marriage.
According to the poll, less than 40% of those asked said they opposed legalizing same-sex marriage (35%), while just 7% said they took no position on the issue. This is in stark contrast to the last time same-sex marriage was on the legislative roster in 2009 when polls showed that only 46% of voters actually supported legalizing same-sex marriage.
“Over the past two years there has been a clear shift towards support for same-sex marriage innational polling and in New Jersey,” said Rutgers-Eagleton Poll director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “This shift has occurred pretty much across the spectrum, with the exception of the strongly religious and most conservative voters. And while there has been little aggregate change since this reintroduction of the marriage bill we are seeing some ideological polarization as the debate develops.”
The poll, questioning 914 adults from across the state on both landline and cellphones from February 9–February 11, suggests that support for legalizing same-sex marriage cuts across traditional ideological divides, and while self-identifying liberals are the most supportive (81%) and a majority of Democrats say they support the move (63%), a majority of moderates (55%) and independent voters (56%) also say they are in favor.
The poll found that younger voters are overwhelmingly supportive with three-quarters of those under 30 saying they support marriage equality — this trend of support continues across nearly every demographic: 57% of those 30-49 years old support the move, while 55% of 50-64 year-olds also support legalizing marriage equality. Only the oldest demographic registered significant opposition.
Despite the noise the public hears regarding religious opposition to gay marriage, 52% of Catholic voters said they support legalizing same-sex marriage while 43% of protestant voters said they were in favor. However, 66% of self-identifying “born again” Christians said the oppose marriage equality.
Interestingly, 64% of voters who support gay marriage also said they viewed Governor Chris Christie unfavorably. Christie has vowed to veto the legislation, but Democratic lawmakers have said they will try to overturn a veto, pointing out they have nearly two years in which to mount a campaign once the legislation has passed. Christie has since called this “political theater.”
Of further note, around 53% of voters reportedly back Governor Christie’s assertion that the gay marriage legislation should go to a public referendum — perhaps indicating an optimism (whether misplaced or not) that marriage equality could buck a long established trend of defeat and win at the ballot.
“Support for legalizing same-sex marriage runs deep in New Jersey, with limited exceptions,” said Redlawsk. “And while there is no doubt that many of those who oppose the idea feel strongly about it, most New Jerseyans in most demographic groups think it is time to make same-sex marriage legal.”
The New Jersey House is expected to vote on the marriage equality legislation on Thursday.