Fall 2012 Articles, Politics, Social Issues

Amendment 1 and Gay Marriage: From the Past to the Present

The results of the May 8 election in North Carolina were clear: Amendment 1 had passed and the constitution now reads “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”  But the national debate over this issue is far from over.  In the 2012 general elections, the states of Washington, Maryland and Maine all voted to allow same-sex marriage and Minnesota rejected a gay marriage ban.

With this issue gaining more and more traction over the past few years, the Pack Poll has sought to identify trends in students’ opinion on the issue.  In this fall’s Pack Poll, students were asked the same questions they have been asked every semester over the past 2 years, “Do you favor or oppose allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry?”  This semester’s results show that 64% of NC State students favor gay marriage, while 35% oppose it.  This is a fairly large increase from the 52% who favored it in the poll conducted last spring, although some of the increase is due to a change in the answer options (see below).

Back in the spring of 2012, the Pack Poll captured the opinions of NC State students about defining marriage as being between one man and one woman (Amendment 1). Although the amendment did pass with 61% of North Carolina voters in favor of it, students on campus felt quite the opposite. Last spring, Pack Poll found that 68% of respondents who planned on voting in the May election were opposed to the amendment.

Civil Unions

In the aftermath of the amendment passing, a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) suggested many in the state of North Carolina did not fully understand the implications of the constitutional change. Amendment 1 not only banned marriage between gays and lesbians, but prevented civil unions as well.

According to the National Conference of State Legislature, civil unions are legally recognized partnerships between two individuals, same-sex or opposite-sex, that “provide legal recognition to the couples’ relationship and provides legal rights to the partners similar to those

accorded to spouses in marriages”. However, these rights depend on the state in which that couple resides. Currently 7 states allow same-sex marriage, 5 provide civil unions for same-sex couples, 4 allow broad domestic partnerships for same-sex couple
Pack Poll has tracked students’ opinions on civil unions too, not just gay marriage, since spring of 2011. In this most recent poll, 70% of students were in favor of civil unions, while 29% were opposed. Although the difference is not very large, students’ support for civil unions is slightly higher than for sex marriage.  Support for civil unions has also jumped about 9 percentage points since the survey was last taken.s and 2 allow limited domestic partnerships.

NCSU Faculty

When asked the exact same question about being in favor or opposed to allowing gays to legally marry, faculty revealed their overwhelming support: 93% said they favored gay marriage.  On the issue of civil unions, support was slightly lower (88%), but given the margin of sampling error in the faculty survey (+/- 6%), the two percentages are statistically indistinguishable.

These results for the faculty aren’t too surprising when viewed in context of other questions on the survey.  When asked if they viewed themselves as more liberal, conservative, or moderate when it comes to social issues in politics, 69% indentified as liberal, 23% as moderate, and only 8% as conservative.

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NOTE: ‘No Opinion’ changes

This year the Pack Poll team decided to change the way ‘no opinion’ was measured. In previous years respondents have been given an explicit ‘no opinion’ option, to make sure respondents were not pushed to answer question they hadn’t really thought about. However, one problem with this strategy is that respondents are also given an easy way out of answering questions they do have opinions about, and can answer “no opinion” even if they really have one.

We decided it was better to record weaker preferences than to make it easy for respondents to skip the question, so this semester we removed the ‘no opinion’ option while still allowing respondents to skip it if they really wanted to by not requiring, merely requesting, an answer before moving on to the next questions.

Thus, only respondents who worked hard to skip the question are calculated as a ‘no response’ percentage.  As a result, we find a significant reduction of “no opinion” that increases both the percentage supporting and the percentage opposing gay marriage and civil unions, compared to previous polls.  In the past, anywhere from 13% to 21% of respondents were choosing the no opinion option.  This time, with the new methodology, only 1% of respondents skipped these questions.

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