Gay Marriage Increased Support Due to Democrats, Independents, Moderates

A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 58 percent of the country now supports redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, the highest level of support since that poll has asked the question. Most of the increase in support over the past year has come from Democrats, independents and moderates. Republicans, liberals and conservatives have changed little in their views on the topic.

In the March 2012 poll, 64 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents said they believed it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married. In the poll conducted this month, support for redefining marriage rose to 72 percent for Democrats and 62 percent for independents.

For Republicans, on the other hand, support for redefining marriage is slightly lower than it was a year ago. In March 2012, 39 percent supported redefining marriage. Then, support declined to 29 percent in May 2012, before increasing slightly to 30 percent in August 2012, and 34 percent this month.

Looking at ideology, the biggest change came from self-described moderates. In March 2012, 58 percent of moderates supported redefining marriage. This month's poll showed a 13 percentage point increase. Seventy-one percent of moderates now support redefining marriage.

Self-described liberals and conservatives have not changed much over the past year in their views on same-sex marriage. Seventy-two percent of liberals supported redefining marriage in March 2012. That rose slightly to 78 percent in May 2012, then dropped slightly to 74 percent this month. For conservatives, 34 percent wanted to redefine marriage in March, 2012. That position declined slightly to 28 percent in May 2012, then increased slightly to 33 percent this month.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases next week to decide whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, or whether states can decide for themselves whether to redefine marriage.

When asked if each state should be able to make its own law with regard to marriage, or whether it should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution, 64 percent said it should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution. The poll did not ask, though, whether that decision should be to maintain the traditional definition of marriage or to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.

The March 7-10 poll had 1,001 respondents. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.