Gay rights advocates might be poised for an electoral breakthrough in Minnesota, a new poll released Tuesday suggests. Voters there will decide in November the fate of a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.
The poll, conducted by Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP), shows 49 percent of Minnesota voters do not believe the state constitution should be amended to ensure legal recognition for only unions between a man and a woman. Forty-three percent of voters support the amendment. That marks a stark shift since PPP’s previous survey of Minnesota in January, when 48 percent of the state’s voters expressed support for the amendment. The latest survey also shows that 47 percent believe same-sex marriage should be legal, the same percentage of Minnesota voters who said it should be illegal in the January poll.
Voters have rejected same-sex marriage in all 32 states where the issue has been on the ballot. Last month, North Carolina became the 30th state to institute a same-sex marriage ban when voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the state’s constitution. But LGBT advocates have had the wind at their backs in the month following that vote.
President Barack Obama’s public support for same-sex marriage — an announcement that came one day after the vote in North Carolina — appears to have accelerated a shift in public opinion among black voters. A law legalizing same-sex marriage is expected to be upheld at the ballot box in Maryland, where a majority of black voters now support the right of gay and lesbian couples to get married. Voters in Maine and Washington could also approve same-sex marriage in November.
Obama’s endorsement may have given a shot in the arm to gay marriage supporters in Minnesota, where the president remains popular. A spokesperson for the campaign to defeat the Minnesota amendment told TPM Monday that interest in their cause ballooned almost immediately following Obama’s announcement in May. The referendum also serves as a political litmus test in what has been a solidly blue state.
Emboldened after gaining majority control of the Minnesota Legislature in 2010 for the first time in 38 years, Republicans passed the constitutional amendment on a largely party-line vote. But Democrats have won Minnesota in every presidential election since 1972, and Obama is a strong favorite to win there again this year. The results of Tuesday’s poll signal that Minnesota voters are ready to back the president on same-sex marriage too.
Tom Kludt is a newswriter for TPM. A former research intern and polling fellow for TPM, he lives and works in New York City. Tom graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in May of 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. He can be reached at Tom (at) talkingpointsmemo.com.