A recently released poll from The Washington Post indicates that a Bible Belt state may be moving toward majority support for same-sex marriage.
According to the results, which were published on the newspaper's website Tuesday, 56 percent of Virginians polled stated that they believe gay couples should be allowed to marry; 33 percent said no and 10 percent held no opinion.
This was an increase from two years earlier, when 46 percent of Virginians said yes to legalized same-sex marriage, 43 percent stated opposition, and 11 percent held no opinion.
Based on 1,000 telephone interviews conducted from April 29 to May 2, the poll also found that 86 percent of Virginians support mandatory background checks for gun purchases and 54 percent supported a hypothetical program that would grant illegal immigrants legal status if they "pay a fine and meet other requirements."
In 2006, the Commonwealth of Virginia voted on and approved a constitutional amendment stating that marriage should be between one man and one woman. The amendment passed with 57 percent of the vote.
Since then, Democratic representatives in the General Assembly have annually introduced bills to repeal the amendment, but they have always failed in committee.
News of The Washington Post's poll comes as the Commonwealth is in campaign season. On Nov. 5, Virginians will hold elections for governor, lieutenant governor, and representatives in the House of Delegates.
The two likely candidates for governor, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic politician Terry McAuliffe, hold opposing views on the marriage definition debate. Neither candidate has put a strong emphasis on the issue, as both have focused more on economic matters on their respective campaign websites.
While the recent Washington Post poll shows strong support for same-sex marriage legalization in Virginia, there is a possibility that the results are skewed to favor the pro-gay marriage cause.
In March, The Washington Post itself ran an article about how many polls on same-sex marriage have been found to be inaccurate when gauging public opinion on the issue.
Aaron Blake and Scott Clement of The Washington Post have written that polls "on gay marriage ballot initiatives generally under-estimate the opposition to gay marriage by about seven percentage points, according to a 2010 study by New York University political science professor Patrick J. Egan."
"The best example of the discrepancy between the polls and the actual vote may be the same gay marriage ban that comes before the Supreme Court this week – California's Proposition 8," continued Blake and Clement.
"While polling regularly showed more opposition to the ban (i.e. support for gay marriage) than support for it, the measure passed on Election Day 2008 by four points, 52 percent to 48 percent."