A plurality of students (49%) currently favors allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while just three-in-ten students (30%) oppose the idea. The proportion of students who support the legalization of same-sex marriage has changed very little since the fall of 2010, when the first Pack Poll took place. Yet, support has declined slightly compared to a high of 54% in the spring of this year. While support has remained relatively stable, more students say they have “no opinion (13% in 2010, 21% today), and opposition is declining. Since the fall 2010 poll, opposition to same-sex marriage declined by 7% (from 37% to 30%).
Opinions about allowing gays and lesbians to form civil unions are similar to gay marriage, but are apparently experiencing more variation over time. For example, a slim majority of students (53%) presently favor civil unions. Yet, support for civil unions has experienced a moderate decline since the spring of this year when 62% of students supported the legalization of same-sex civil unions. Likewise, opposition to civil unions is just 27%, but this figure has risen from 19% of students polled in the spring of this year.
Women respondents are more likely to favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally (62%) than men (44%). Women also express significantly stronger feelings about the issues of same-sex marriage and civil unions. An analysis of student responses finds that approximately one-third of women say they strongly favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally (35%) and form civil unions (33%).
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Republicans in the state legislature have pushed through a referendum to amend the state constitution to effectively ban gay marriage. The amendment would limit domestic legal unions to marriages between one man and one woman. Voters will get to decide during the primary elections that are to be held next spring. State students oppose the amendment nearly 2-1. While 52% expressed opposition to the ban, just 27% said they favored it.
Majority Opposes a Constitutional Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage
Surprisingly, roughly one-third (35%) of students who strongly opposed allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry did not support the constitutional amendment, but just 15% of those who strongly opposed allowing gays and lesbians to legally form civil unions opposed the amendment. Conversely, opposition was much stronger among students who expressed support for gay marriage. Over nine-in-ten students (91%) who strongly favored allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry opposed the constitutional amendment.
Compared to the Nation
According to the Pew Foundation, 45% of the American public currently say that they approve of allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, slightly lower than the 49% of N.C. State students who say this. Among the N.C. State student population, however, only 30% currently disapprove of the legalization of same-sex marriage, which is significantly lower than the national average of 46%. The fact that fewer State students are willing to express an opinion, however, could be masking some hidden opposition due to social desirability pressures.
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Note on Methodology: The Pack Poll at NC State University was fielded between Nov. 1 – Nov. 8, 2011. Responses came from 1108 partial and 970 completed interviews with NCSU undergraduates. A random sample of 5,000 students’ email was used to contact potential respondents, who were invited to take the on-line survey using a software program called Qualtrics. The survey has a margin of sampling error of approximately plus or minus 3 percentage points. For smaller subsamples within the survey, the margin of sampling error is larger. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls.