California Voters Sharply Divided Over the Prop 8 Same-Sex Marriage Ban

A Field Poll asked voters how they would react if same-sex marriage came to the ballot again.

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SAN FRANCISCO—Less than a week after a majority of justices on the California Supreme Court appeared poised to uphold Proposition 8, the initiative that eliminated same-sex marriage in this state, a new poll finds voters sharply divided over the likely next step: A proposed constitutional amendment that would reverse Proposition 8 and restore same-sex marriage.

After their defeat at the ballot box in November, gay rights groups promised to put a new initiative on the ballot if the court ruled against them—something many analysts consider likely after the justices' cool reception during oral arguments on the legality of Proposition 8 last week. The court has 90 days to determine if the initiative is a legitimate amendment. California law requires only a bare majority to amend the state Constitution.

According to a Field Poll released today, the first to ask voters how they would react if same-sex marriage finds its way back onto the ballot, gay rights groups might not have the support they need. While 52 percent of voters supported Proposition 8 in the fall, the poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters say they would vote to amend the Constitution to allow gays and lesbians to marry, while 47 percent said they would vote against it. Five percent of voters say they are undecided.

The poll's demographic breakdown is remarkably similar to the vote on Proposition 8: Almost 65 percent of Democrats say they would support an amendment restoring same-sex marriage in the state, while 70 percent of Republicans say they would oppose it. Voters in San Francisco and Los Angeles County overwhelmingly line up on the side of same-sex marriage, with 64 percent of registered voters in the San Francisco Bay area saying they would vote in favor of an amendment. The state's more conservative Central Valley is just as strongly opposed to the idea, with 60 percent of voters saying they would vote against the amendment.

Men and women also are divided on the issue, with 52 percent of men opposing the potential ballot initiative and 53 percent of women supporting it.

As with Proposition 8, a generational gap also continues to split the state. Fifty-five percent of voters between 18 and 39 say they would support the amendment, while voters between 40 and 64 are only narrowly in favor. Two in three voters 65 or older say they would oppose the amendment.

Voters who know or work with gay or lesbian individuals, meanwhile, continue to strongly support same-sex marriage, with 56 percent saying they would vote for an amendment allowing same-sex couples to marry. Among voters who say they do not know any gays or lesbians, 66 percent say they would vote against the proposed amendment.