Once again, it's all about how you ask the question. The Elon Poll surveyed North Carolina adults — not likely voters, not registered voters, but potential voters nonetheless — about same-sex unions. About 6 in 10 favor some form of legal recognition, though of that group, not all are in favor of calling it marriage.
Just 1 in 3 are against any form of legal recognition.
This is, of course, what Amendment One would do if passed by the voters May 8. It would ban all forms of legal recognition ... no same-sex marriage, no civil unions, no recognition of any kind of "domestic legal unions" except for the marriage of one man to one woman.
Still, asked a straight-up question about the amendment, yes or no, the results keep coming back in favor of the amendment. That's because people don't know that it doesn't simply put the existing definition of marriage into the state constitution, it also prevents the state from enacting a law allowing civil unions.
Here's Elon's press release:
Elon Poll: Support growing for same-sex marriage rights
Six out of 10 people in North Carolina would oppose an amendment to the state constitution that prevents any same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships or civil unions, according to the latest Elon University Poll. Thirty-two percent of state residents would support one.
The poll, conducted March 26-29, 2012, surveyed 534 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.24 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones. The Elon University Poll does not restrict respondents by voter eligibility or likelihood of voting.
The late March poll comes just over a month before the public will head to the polls to decide whether to add such an amendment to the state constitution.
In addition to the direct question about a constitutional amendment, the poll asked respondents to offer personal positions on legal recognition of same-sex couples, and data shows a shift in favor of rights for gay and lesbian couples.
38 percent of respondents say they support full marriage rights for same sex couples, up from 36 percent in February and 33 percent in November.
29 percent of respondents oppose any legal recognition for same sex couples, down from 32 percent in February and 35 percent in November.
Support for civil unions or partnerships for same-sex couples, but not full marriage rights, was at 29 percent, one point higher than in February 2012.
“These results reflect what's occurring nationwide,” said John Robinson, director of communications for the Elon University Poll. “Opposition to any legal recognition for same-sex couples has been on the decline for a year and support for full marriage rights has been increasing. Our results suggest that the majority of North Carolinians do not want same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships banned in the state constitution. Further, it appears that citizens support at least some kind of legal recognition for same-sex couples, either civil unions or marriages.”
In light of recent public attention on contraception and health care coverage, the Elon University Poll asked respondents about their opinions on the issue.
49 percent: “Employers should be allowed to opt out of covering contraceptives for their female employees.”
43 percent: “Employers should be required to cover the full cost of contraceptives to their female employees.”
“This issue connects several complicated issues - health insurance, religion, presidential politics and birth control,” Robinson said. “Consequently, it's not surprising that North Carolinians are divided. But they lean toward allowing employers to opt out of covering contraceptives.”
The March poll’s question on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage represents a change to the way the Elon University Poll has asked respondents about the issues involved in a ballot measure. In previous surveys, the poll asked whether respondents would support or oppose a constitutional ban only on same-sex marriage rights. In the February 2012 poll, a second question was added, asking whether respondents would support or oppose a constitutional ban on domestic partnerships or civil unions.
In the latest poll, all three components – marriage rights, domestic partnerships and civil unions – were included in the wording of one question.
Poll leaders caution against using previous data about a constitutional amendment to draw conclusions about direct shifts in attitudes toward such an amendment.
ABOUT THE POLL
Using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing lab on campus, Elon University conducts frequent regional and statewide surveys on issues of importance to North Carolinians as well as other southern states. Information from these polls is shared with media, citizens and public officials to facilitate informed public policy making through the better understanding of citizens’ opinions and attitudes.