Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Poll Shows Support for Marriage Equality in New Jersey Dropping, Tug-O-War Continues

Just last week, a Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed New Jersey residents supporting the marriage equality bill by a 46 - 42% margin but with a slice of 12% still unsure.

A new poll released today from Quinnipiac University, conducted Nov. 17 and Nov. 22, reverses these results and one from earlier this year in April, now indicating that by a slim 49 - 46% margin, New Jersey voters oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to marry. The Quinnipiac poll in April showed support with a 49 - 43% margin.

Voters were asked, "Would you support or oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married?" (Click on images to enlarge)

Women support same-sex marriage 53 - 41 percent, while men oppose it 57 - 38 percent. White voters split 49 - 47 percent, while black voters oppose the measure 61 - 28 percent.
Among voters who do support same-sex marriage, 74 percent say the State Legislature should pass the measure now, so Gov. Jon Corzine can sign it.
"When we asked about gay marriage in April, it won narrow approval. Now that it seems closer to a legislative vote, it loses narrowly with the public," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"The biggest drop is among independent voters, who backed the measure 50 - 41 percent in April. And opposition among men spiked from 48 - 44 percent opposed to 57 - 38 percent."

"If the State Legislature is going to pass it, voters say, do it while Gov. Jon Corzine - a supporter - is still in office. Governor-elect Christopher Christie has said he'd veto it."
The poll goes on to ask an interesting question regarding uber-conservative governor-elect Chris Christie and how he should select state Supreme Court justices, particularly when it comes to controversial issues.

It's a shame that it is, but it appears marriage equality is controversial. Go figure.

One of the more disheartening aspects of this poll is the big drop in support from independent voters. It's hard to determine if this shift is the result of Maine and the message that came from Question 1 passing, or if it's because now that marriage equality can become an actuality in New Jersey, voters balk at the idea. Or maybe it's both?

The AP thinks it's Maine, declaring, "The state-to-state march to legalize gay marriage across the left-leaning Northeast has lost more momentum since a major setback three weeks ago at the ballot box in Maine."

Of course Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), whose organization launched a major campaign against the marriage bill Monday, told the AP, "If they are unable to pass gay marriage in New York and New Jersey, combined with the loss in Maine, it will confirm that gay marriage is not the inevitable wave of the future."

But Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry disagrees. "In any civil rights struggle there are going to be periods of creeping and periods of leaping."

"If this goes down in both states, it will be seen by both sides as building on the momentum that opponents sort of got coming out of Maine," said David Masci, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Steven Goldenstein of Garden State Equality, the state's largest LGBT advocacy group, acknowledges they may have lost support in the New Jersey's capital of Trenton, but asks, "Was marriage equality in the bag before the election? Nothing in politics is ever in the bag, but we were looking pretty damn excellent."

Whatever the cause of support dropping, there's a lot of work to be done in New Jersey and very little time to do it. Gov. Jon Corzine, who has promised to sign the marriage bill if it reaches his desk, will have to leave office in January and be replaced by Christie, who is not a fan of the LGBT population.

On Monday, legislators met for the first time during the lame duck session and Democratic leaders met to discuss the marriage bill but made no decisions. Meanwhile they faced a large crowd of marriage equality supporters rallying for its passage.

However, opponents say that despite the difficulty of getting an initiative on the ballot in New Jersey, they vow to accomplish just that if the bill is passed in order to give voters a chance to have a final say on the matter.

ACTION: Now more than ever, New Jersey needs your help. Go to Garden State Equality and find out how you can get involved.


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