Poll: Only Republicans have majority against gay marriage in RI

Rhode Island’s House of Representatives will gather at 4 p.m. for a historic vote to legalize same-sex marriage. It will almost certainly mark the first time either chamber of the General Assembly backs the idea. (WPRI will stream the debate live online.)

While there’s no doubt the issue remains controversial, polling suggests House lawmakers will be acting in line with public opinion if it approves gay marriage today.

Last September, a WPRI 12 poll showed same-sex marriage enjoys significant support among Rhode Islanders, with 56% of voters in favor of legalization, 36% opposed and 8% unsure.

Support for same-sex marriage is fairly broad among different types of voters, with one exception: Republicans. Rhode Island GOP voters are the only group that has a majority against legalization, with 59% opposed (and 40% strongly opposed). Voters ages 60 and older are closely split, with 49% of seniors in favor and 43% opposed.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats and voters ages 18 to 39 are the strongest supporters of allowing same-sex marriage in Rhode Island: 72% of Democrats and 64% of 18- to 39-year-olds are in favor. Nearly half of voters in each group say they’re strongly in favor.

Legalizing same-sex marriage in Rhode Island also has majority support from voters in union households (64%), voters ages 40 to 59 (60%), women (58%), men (54%) and independents (50%). The telephone interview poll with 501 likely Rhode Island voters was conducted Sept. 26 to 29 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.38 percentage points.

The September WPRI poll is just the most recent to find majority support for same-sex marriage in Rhode Island. Surveys from Public Policy Polling in 2011 and Brown University in 2009 led to similar results.

The polling suggests it’s probably inevitable that same-sex marriage will be legalized at some point in Rhode Island, the only New England state where it’s not allowed, particularly if supporters can capitalize on their advantage in the court of public opinion. Still, it may take longer than one expects at first glance because of the conservative Democrats who control the Senate.

It’s widely known that Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed of Newport opposes same-sex marriage, although she says she won’t block a committee vote this session. Another opponent is Warwick Sen. Michael McCaffrey, who not only chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee but eventually may succeed Paiva Weed as Senate leader. And just this week Paiva Weed’s powerful No. 2, Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, co-sponsored a constitutional amendment [pdf] to ban same-sex marriage being pushed by influential Providence Sen. Frank Ciccone, another Democrat.

McCaffrey, who fought off a tough primary challenge from a same-sex supporter last year, says he won’t hold hearings until “sometime in the spring,” telling The Journal: “Obviously, there are more important things than gay marriage to worry about in the state of Rhode Island right now.”

Still, the pressure on Senate leadership to pass same-sex marriage will only grow in the coming years – and their opposition could eventually become a political problem for liberal lawmakers like Cranston Sen. Joshua Miller and Providence Sen. Gayle Goldin, who’ll have to explain to activists in their districts why they empower a leadership team on Smith Hill that blocks a policy which is quickly becoming a core Democratic priority.

​More Nesi’s Notes coverage of Rhode Island’s same-sex marriage debate:

​(photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)

  • mike

    what a joke they just did a poll last week and it showwed voters are oppose to legalizing this gov gump and gordon fox please both of u just go away there are bigger problems than this like the econonmy both of u just stop

    • dragonjack

      you do enjoy being willfully clueless don’t you!

    • RhodeyVoice

      Where is this poll? There are many problems, that haven’t been fixed in two years. Until this is passed it will come up every year.

  • dragonjack

    McCaffrey and Paiva-Weed need to get OUT OF THE WAY and allow this to pass. Our state seems to pride itself on being the endless embarrassment of New England – with so-called “leaders” like this, it’s not hard to see why. This has NEVER been a religious or moral issue (and that’s a FACT) this is a CIVIL issue that should have been legalized LONG ago. This is inept politics from two politicans who frankly don’t deserve their jobs!

    • Cosmo

      Regardless of how this one plays out, RI will still be an embarrassment to New England, not to mention the rest of the country. This is just the tipity tipity top of the iceberg.

    • lost in ri

      so we have gay marraige and then we are no longer an embarassment??

      mr dragin jack, we are DEAD LAST IN EVERYTHING. there is this perception that this will be a magic cure. and we need this to cure everything else. no respect for what others think.

      if you have so much confidence in what the people want, then let it go to a voter referendum. why do you feel the need to spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying???

      these are fair questions

  • http://blogs.wpri.com/2013/01/24/watch-the-house-debate-same-sex-marriage-live-on-wpri-com/ Watch the House debate same-sex marriage live on WPRI.com | WPRI.com Blogs

    […] here to watch the video stream (via Capitol TV). And here’s my preview of the debate. Tags: gay […]

  • http://blogs.wpri.com/2013/01/24/ri-senate-democrats-may-wait-months-take-up-gay-marriage/ RI Senate Democrats may wait months take up gay marriage | WPRI.com Blogs

    […] Related: Poll: Only Republicans have majority against gay marriage in RI​ (Jan. 24) Tags: gay marriage, general assembly, m. teresa paiva weed, michael mccaffrey, […]

  • Sparky

    You can never allow the majority to vote on the rights of a few. If that were the case women would still be the property of men and the 60’s civil rights movement would have never happened.

    If we’re all so big on separation of church and state why is reliqion trying to dictate law? And if the bible is the end all law book then why not follow it all the way and not pick and choose what you believe in.

  • downsized54

    How would you know this Ted because Brown University told you?How many were asked to take part in this poll Ted?The media can manipulate any story Ted.Marriage is defined by God Ted not Gordon Fox.

  • Bunchoffools

    This is a stupid discussion and complete waste for it to be discussed and voted on by the GA. All marriages are civil unions in the eyes of government and law, they only become marriages after being blessed by your church, mosque or what have you. The law has no role in making it a marriage, only the legal contractual aspect making it a civil union.

    From my religious education and beliefs I can say it is wrong and there is no further discussion. However from a civic perspective, legally do what you want and settle up with your God later.

    Now can we please get back to the economy, taxes, infrastructure etc?

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