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Obama: No Bounce; Same-Sex Marriage: Big Bounce

May 27, 2012

Two weeks ago, I observed that the media punditocracy had dumped a lot of ink on the question of the impact of President Obama’s statement of support for same-sex marriage on his polls, but had hardly noticed the question of the impact on the polling for same-sex marriage.  I speculated that POTUS support for marriage equality might be very helpful to marriage equality.

Just two weeks later, we have a raft of polling data showing that Obama’s statement had a major impact among African-American voters.  First, a Washington Post poll shows national opposition to same-sex marriage “at an all-time low”:  marriage equality is favored by a 53 – 36 majority.  The compares to Nate Silver’s current composite of polls showing support by a plurality of 47 – 43.

Even more important, the Post poll shows a big shift among African-Americans:  from 41 percent in favor of marriage equality before Obama’s announcement to 59 percent in favor now.  In other words, President Obama moved African-American opinion on same-sex marriage from about six points behind the national curve to about six points ahead of it.

Maryland is one of four states likely to hold referendums on marriage equality this November, and Maryland is nearly one-third African-American.  A new Public Policy Polling survey shows a 57 – 37 majority for marriage equality, up from 52 – 44 just two months ago.  Key to that result was a surge in support from African-Americans:  from 39 percent in March to 55 percent now.  PPP polls found similar results among African-Americans in Pennsylvania and in North Carolina.

Maine, Minnesota and Washington, the other three states likely to hold marriage equality referendums this fall, apparently haven’t been polled on the question since President Obama’s announcement.  Before the announcement, support was leading opposition in Maine and Washington, but was slightly trailing in Minnesota.  Washington voters, like Marylanders, will decide whether to keep a law passed by their legislature.  Maine voters will decide whether to enact their own law legalizing same-sex marriage.  And Minnesota voters will decide whether to write their existing statutory prohibition against same-sex marriage into the state’s constitution.

The African-American vote in those three states is relatively small – less than five percent in each state.  So a pro-equality shift in the African-American vote in those three states is unlikely to be decisive.  What remains to be seen is whether this is a polling “bump” that dissipates; whether it is sustained increase in support but is confined to African-Americans; or whether it is a trendsetter among the broader electorate.

Stay tuned.  We’ll soon see how much of the Big Mo’ is behind the Big ‘Mo.

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