State News

Poll: Half of N.C. adults oppose marriage amendment

Posted March 23, 2009 11:29 a.m. EDT
Updated March 23, 2009 4:24 p.m. EDT

— About half of North Carolina adults oppose a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage, according to a poll released Monday that suggests state voters may be unwilling to follow their Southern peers in approving such a ban.

The Elon University Poll, which surveyed 620 North Carolina residents from March 15 to March 19, also found a majority oppose video poker and oppose the death penalty for people under age 18. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll found that 50.4 percent of respondents oppose or strongly oppose such an amendment while more than 43 percent of those in the survey said they would support or strongly support it. The remainder refused to answer the question or said the didn't know.

Hunter Bacot, Elon's poll director, said the numbers surprisingly mirror national surveys, indicating North Carolina may be more moderate than expected on the issue. About 30 states nationwide have added that prohibition to the state constitution, including California, which approved an amendment in a heated campaign last year.

"I didn't think we'd get over 50 percent," Bacot said. "In North Carolina, we are a Southern state and are generally a bit more conservative, particularly on these types of issues."

In recent years, voters in every Southern state except North Carolina have approved state constitutional amendments restricting marriage to between one man and one woman. Democratic lawmakers in North Carolina have prevented the issue from coming up for a vote, pointing to a state law that already prohibits gay marriage.

While respondents opposed the amendment, most didn't support allowing the same-sex marriages. Only 21 percent of respondents said they support full marriage rights for same-sex couples. About 28 percent said they would support civil unions or partnerships but not marriage.

About 44 percent of respondents said they oppose any legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Bacot said some respondents appear to be struggling to weigh a number of competing issues - views on religion, civil liberties and the role of government. He said that's why some are deciding that while they don't want to deny benefits with an amendment, they also don't want to encourage same-sex marriage.

"They don't mind homosexuals and homosexual activity - as long as it doesn't affect them," Bacot said.

Two bills filed in North Carolina this year pushing a constitutional amendment have been languishing in committees.

Proponents of the amendment say it would provide stronger protection of traditional marriage than the law, which states that a valid marriage is one "created by the consent of a male and female person."

On the subject of video poker, 53 percent said they are against making the games available statewide. A recent court ruling overturned a state ban on video poker, saying the General Assembly couldn't allow the games in a casino run by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee while prohibiting them elsewhere.

Regarding the death penalty, more than two-thirds of those surveyed said they opposed the death penalty for defendants under age 18. Twenty-nine percent said juveniles should never be tried as adults.