Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Field Poll: Ban on gay marriage getting more opposition than support | Inland News | | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California

Field Poll: Ban on gay marriage getting more opposition than support | Inland News | | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California

The Press-Enterprise

A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is trailing in a new poll of Californians likely to vote in the November election.

The nonpartisan Field Poll released today found that 51 percent of likely voters oppose Prop. 8, while 42 percent are in favor.

"I have friends who are gay and I just feel they have the same rights I have," said Riverside poll respondent Ralph Satterberg, 57, a wildfire-management chief who described himself as a liberal Democrat. He said the proposed amendment "is just wrong."

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Poll respondent Elena Frankovich, of Apple Valley, said gay and lesbian couples should have hospital visitation and other rights but not the right to marry.

"They should be allowed to do what they want to behind closed doors, but not have public recognition," said Frankovich, 57, a retired nurse who said she is a conservative Republican.

Opposition to Prop. 8 is highest in the San Francisco Bay Area, while support for the measure is greatest in the Central Valley. Likely voters in the survey area that includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties are almost evenly split.

The poll highlights a continuing deep rift on the issue two months after the California Supreme Court's May decision to overturn the 2000 law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Same-sex couples began marrying June 17.

Republican voters, those who live in the state's inland areas, and those who are older, Protestant or men are more likely to support Prop. 8.

Democrats and independent voters, coastal residents, women, baby boomers and people under 30 are more likely to oppose the initiative.

"It's a huge difference, almost mirror images of one another," poll director Mark DiCamillo said of the split. "It's become magnified over the last 10 years."

Only 7 percent of voters are undecided, according to the poll. Inland respondents interviewed Thursday said their minds are made up.

Poll respondent Bud Faulkner, a born-again Christian from Moreno Valley, said he believes homosexual behavior is unnatural and should not be condoned.

"Marriage has been between a man and a woman for thousands of years," said Faulkner, 41, a truck driver. "To change that definition would send the wrong signal to the world and to our kids."

Voter Hesitation

Likely voters' preferences on Prop. 8 are the same as in Field Poll survey in May. That poll found that, for the first time in three decades, more people supported marriage for same-sex couples.

DiCamillo said today's findings could reflect more than just people's opinions about gay marriage.

Prop. 22, approved by voters in March 2000, changed state law to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. But Prop. 8 would amend the state constitution.

The May survey indicated that most voters were hesitant to change the state constitution on the issue. A majority also opposed changing the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, the poll found.

"I think there's a greater hurdle involved when you attempt to change the constitution," DiCamillo said.

Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for the yes-on-Prop. 8 campaign, said she thinks support for the initiative and opposition to same-sex marriage is significantly higher than the poll has found.

In March 2000, 61 percent of voters backed Prop. 22. Earlier Field Polls showed support for that initiative in the low 50s.

"We believe the Field Poll understates support for our side by 7 to 10 points," Kerns said.

Steve Smith, the no-on-Prop. 8 campaign's senior consultant, said today's poll and the May findings mean most people are unwilling to limit marriage rights.

"From a campaign manager's perspective, trying to get to a yes vote when you're already 10 points behind is really difficult," he said.

$10 Million Raised

Both sides are preparing for a costly fall campaign. Almost $10 million has been raised this year so far, with opposition committees collecting about $2 million more than supporters, state reports show.

Annie Meairs, 46, married her partner of eight years, Ginny Jorgenson, 63, on June 17. Meairs, who is from Pedley, said she thinks more Californians support same-sex marriage today than in 2000 because gays and lesbians are more visible.

"Straight people have seen we're just like they are, that I want the same things in life that my straight neighbors do. It's less of a big deal," said Meairs, a home health care manager.

The survey of 672 likely voters was conducted for The Press-Enterprise and other California media subscribers. It took place July 8- 14 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Reach Jim Miller at 916-445-9973 or

Reach David Olson at 951-368-9462 or

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