"Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally?"
Favor: 50%, Oppose: 41%, PPP, 544 Rhode Island voters
Despite being assaulted by television ads for weeks from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) that have gone unanswered in that medium, Public Policy Polling (PPP) found the Rhode Island public still favors marriage equality by a wide margin. As PPP's writeup makes clear:
It's not going to be too long before the simple aging of the US population produces a lasting pro-gay marriage majority. The people who are opposed to it are gradually dying out and being replaced in the electorate by voters who are perfectly comfortable with it.
If Rhode Island legislators want to stay on the right side of public opinion they'll pass the bill.
A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island is currently before its legislature.
For comparison, PPP has done two other recent surveys on marriage equality, one in California and one in Delaware:
California: Do you think same sex marriage should be legal or illegal?
Legal: 51%, Illegal: 40%
Delaware: "Do you favor or oppose Delaware allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into same-sex marriages?"
Favor: 48%, Oppose: 47%
In Maryland, a recent poll done by Gonzales Research and Marketing, where a bill to legalize same-sex marriage is now being debated in their legislature, showed:
favor a law in Maryland allowing same-sex couples to marry, or oppose
Favor: 51%, Oppose: 44%
Rhode Island is thus well-placed with respect to those states that are on a path to legalize same-sex marriage.
Did you know Daily Kos readers and other netroots participants at such sites as Pam's House Blend and the Prop 8 Trial Tracker were the ones who made this poll possible? It's true (with a little help from Twitter and Facebook too).
More than a week ago PPP asked on their website blog what state they should poll next, providing several options including Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Washington State.
Clarknt67 and I took it upon ourselves to see if we could get enough people across the netroots to vote for Rhode Island and have it come out on top. We hoped that if it did PPP would ask about marriage equality along with their usual Presidential and Senatorial race questions (as they had just previously asked same-sex marriage questions in California and Colorado, this was not an unreasonable assumption).
But the effort failed. As Monday night came Rhode Island was in second place but so far behind there was no hope of catching up.
And then the effort succeeded! On Tuesday, February 15th I woke to find this entry posted on PPP's blog:
Rhode Island received the most votes from distinct individuals in our 'vote on where to poll' this week so that's where we'll go this time around along with North Carolina.
Apparently the polling results widget PPP was using didn't show 'distinct individual' votes. Who knew?
And so we got this poll on marriage equality, the first to be taken in Rhode Island in seven months -- despite it being one of the hottest topics in the state. Everyone knew that the Rhode Island legislature would be taking up the issue in its 2011 session, as it is now doing, so why no polls until we forced the issue? I have no answer to that.
Why prompted me to do this? Why is getting polls like this out important?
Because polls by reputable, independent polling organizations make headlines. LGBT groups and friends simply do not have the financial resources that groups like NOM and their ilk, funded directly or indirectly by organizations like the Catholic and Mormon Churches, can muster. We may be able to generate a Crimson Tide with some organizing skills but airing hate-filled televised spots takes big bucks.
Because poll results influence those of the public who are on the fence. Let's face it, the vast majority of people are not out marching for or against marriage equality. A large number don't even understand the issue. People go with the flow, and if they think it's okay in a general way to support marriage equality, they will be more likely to do so themselves.
Because poll results influence legislators who are on the fence. For much the same reasons as above. If it is politically and socially acceptable to be for marriage equality, a politician whose only real concern is being re-elected will have a much easier time finding that vote, especially if they perceive they will not be punished for it.
So thank you to everyone who voted! You've just seen what the results of having a mere nine hundred people click a few times can produce.
Now it's up to the Rhode Island legislature and its Governor to do the right thing.