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Gov. Chris Christie will need some convincing, but Democratic legislators claim they have public opinion on their side as they attempt to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
"We also must recognize that society is changing for the better, making (Assembly bill) A-1 timely," state Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) said in a Jan. 9 news release. "Opinion polls show that the majority of Americans, and the majority of New Jerseyans, favor marriage equality for same sex couples."
Between four national polls and two Rutgers University polls, PolitiFact New Jersey found that Gusciora has the numbers to back up his argument. But two other national polls have indicated there are slightly more opponents than supporters.
"It’s not a solid majority yet, but many polls are showing a majority," said Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute. "(Gusciora is) probably on safe ground with that claim, certainly here in the state of New Jersey."
First, let’s talk about the state polls.
In each of two polls conducted last year by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, 52 percent of New Jersey residents said same-sex marriage should be legal in the Garden State. The most recent poll, which was done in October, found that 39 percent oppose legalizing same-sex marriage.
For the most recent poll, the margin of error attributed to those percentages was 4.7 percent.
"I think it is a fair statement," said David Redlawsk, a political science professor and director of the Rutgers-Eagleton poll, referring to Gusciora’s claim. "Nationally, we’re seeing the same general trend."
Now, let’s turn to how Americans across the nation view same-sex marriage.
Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, pointed to a Gallup poll conducted in May, when 53 percent of respondents said same-sex marriage should be legal. That figure marked a nine percent increase over a 2010 poll asking the same question. The margin of error for the May poll was 4 percent.
We also found three other national polls that demonstrate similar support for same-sex marriage.
Two ABC News/Washington Post polls conducted last year put the level of support at slightly more than 50 percent. A CNN poll done in April also found that 51 percent of respondents support legalizing same-sex marriage. The margins of error for those polls was 3.5 percent.
However, when you factor in the margins of error, a majority of Americans might only support same-sex marriage based on one of those four national polls.
Also, two other national polls conducted last year suggest that opposition to same-sex marriage remains strong.
A Pew Research Center poll done in late February and early March found that 45 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage and 46 percent oppose it. That poll had a margin of error of 3 percent.
In July, a Quinnipiac University poll determined that 48 percent of registered voters would oppose a state law legalizing same-sex marriage and 46 percent would support one. The margin of error was 2 percent.
Still, both of those polls demonstrate that public support for same-sex marriage has increased. Compared to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in April 2009, the percentage of respondents who support a state law allowing same-sex marriage has increased by 8 percent.
Hester defended Gusciora’s claim in an email: "Polls have shown support for marriage equality. Assemblyman Gusciora accurately and responsibly cited those polls. His statement was true."
Gusciora claimed, "Opinion polls show that the majority of Americans, and the majority of New Jerseyans, favor marriage equality for same sex couples."
Two state polls and four national polls show that slightly more than 50 percent of respondents support legalizing same-sex marriage. But the margins of error among those national polls could mean greater support than opposition in only one of those polls.
Two other national polls also suggest a closely divided electorate, but still show that public support for same-sex marriage has increased in recent years.
We rate the statement Mostly True.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
New Jersey Assembly Democrats, Gusciora: "New Jersey and ME (Marriage Equality), Perfect Together,"Jan. 9, 2012
The Star-Ledger, Sweeney: N.J. gay marriage fight will be with Christie, not Legislature, Jan. 9, 2012
PolitiFact New Jersey, Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein says polls now show a majority of Catholics support gay marriage, July 31, 2011
Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Finds New Jerseyans Still Favor Legalizing Gay Marriage, Oct. 28, 2011
Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics, Majority of New Jerseyans Favors Gay Marriage But Shows More Support For Civil Unions As An Alternative, Rutgers Poll Finds, Aug. 31, 2011
PollingReport.com, Polls conducted on same-sex marriage, gay rights, accessed Jan. 9-10, 2012
Gallup, For First Time, Majority of Americans Favor Legal Gay Marriage, May 20, 2011
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Fewer Are Angry at Government, But Discontent Remains High, March 3, 2011
ABC News, Support for Gay Marriage Reaches a Milestone, March 18, 2011
PolitiFact, Anne Hathaway and other celebs sign letter urging President Obama to join the 'majority of Americans' in support of gay marriage, March 18, 2011
CNN, Poll: More Americans favor same-sex marriage, April 19, 2011
Quinnipiac Polling Institute, President Is Best Of The Worst On Economy, U.S. Voters Tell Quinnipiac University National Poll; Voters Blame Bush Over Obama 2-1 For Financial Mess, July 14, 2011
Washington Post-ABC News Poll, conducted July 14-17, 2011
Email interview with Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for the New Jersey Assembly Democrats, Jan. 9 and 11, 2012
Email interview with Jeffrey Lax, Columbia University Department of Political Science, Jan. 9-10, 2012
Interview with David Redlawsk,Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics, Jan. 10-11, 2012
Interview with Patrick Murray,Monmouth University Polling Institute, Jan. 10, 2012
Email interview with Mickey Carroll, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Jan. 10, 2012
Email interview with Charles Franklin, University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Political Science, Jan. 10, 2012
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