For years, credible surveys conducted among Colorado voters have found opinion in the state swinging strongly in favor of legal relationship recognition for gay couples. Results released Friday by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling show the strongest support yet. Coloradans, according to a poll conducted last week (pdf), support a civil unions bill presently being considered by the state legislature by a whopping 30-point spread.
In an email on the results, PPP pollster Tom Jensen wrote that “Democrats (83/13) and independents (75/19) are pretty unanimously supportive, as are a third of Republicans (31/61).”
Indeed, the poll shows a significant uptick in support just in the time since PPP asked the same question of Coloradans in February of 2011.
Which of the following best describes your opinion on gay marriage: gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, or gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry, or there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship?
The answers from 2011 and 2012:
Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry… 40% and 47%
Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not to marry… 32% and 28%
There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship… 25% and 22%
Not sure… 3% and 2%
Coloradans voted to ban gay marriage when Amendment 43 passed in 2006 and Republican lawmakers opposed to the 2012 civil unions bill have leaned on Amendment 43 to partly justify their no votes. It’s clear, however, that public opinion in the state as around the country has moved swiftly on the issue in recent years.
After the presidential election of 2008, polling statistics geek Nate Silver then of FiveThirtyEight.com and now of the New York Times predicted that majority opinion in Colorado would flip to support for gay marriage by 2012.
PPP’s findings this year support that prediction. Jensen reports that 53 percent of Colorado voters now believe gay marriage should be legal and only 40 percent believe it should remain illegal.
Jensen also drills down into the survey results to argue that the issue of gay-rights presents an increasingly serious electoral problem for the Republican Party.
There are two things in the crosstabs on gay marriage that really stand out. Voters under 30 think gay marriage should be legal by a 77/23 margin, and independents support it by a 61/32 spread as well. That should be a real warning sign to the GOP that continuing to tack right on this issue is going to significantly hurt its ability to appeal both to the next generation of voters and to swing voters who are somewhere between moderate and liberal on social issues.
We already see Colorado shading bluer and bluer at the Presidential level and this is one of the issues where Republicans seem to be stuck behind while the electorate is moving forward.