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Survey: Partisan divide over gay marriage widens

Andrew Burton/Reuters

Phil Fung, right, holds hands with Shawn Klein during their marriage ceremony in the Empire State Building in New York, on Feb. 14, 2012.

Support for same-sex marriage rose among voters of all political stripes in recent years, but it surged so much among Democrats that the partisan divide on the issue is wider than ever, according to a national survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

Sixty-five percent of Democrats are now favor same-sex marriage, compared to 50 percent four years ago, while 24 percent of Republicans are in support, versus 19 percent in 2008, the survey found. The gap between the two major parties stands at 41 percentage points.

“The latest national survey … finds that the partisan divide over gay marriage continues to widen,” the forum said. The survey also found that 51 percent of independents now favor gay marriage, seven percentage points more than 2008.

President Barack Obama’s announcement in May that he supported same-sex marriage -- the first American president to do so -- “rallied the Democratic base,” especially liberal Democrats, to the issue, though its overall impact on public opinion has been limited, the forum said.

“Reports that the Democratic Party may add support for gay marriage to its party platform are in keeping with a significant shift of  opinion on this issue among Democrats nationwide,” the forum report said.

The report noted that there had been an increase in support for same-sex marriage across several demographic groups who had opposed it in the past: African-American support is up to 40 percent from 26 percent in 2008, while 28 percent of those who attend church at least weekly back it, compared with 23 percent in 2008.

In May, a Gallup poll found that 50 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal and bestow the same rights as traditional marriage, compared to 48 percent who don’t.

 “This year's results underscore just how divided the nation is on this issue,” Gallup said at the time.

Six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, while 31 states have constitutional amendments that effectively ban it. Plaintiffs in several lawsuits challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- which defines marriage as between a man and a woman -- have asked the Supreme Court to hear their case in the high court’s next session.

The Pew Forum survey of 2,973 adults was conducted from June 28-July 9 with a margin of error of 2.1 percentage points. 

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