Poll shows attitudes changing on same-sex marriage in Va.

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Attitudes on same-sex marriage may be changing in Virginia, a traditionally conservative state.

Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 banning same-sex marriage or civil unions. However, a new University of Mary Washington poll done by the Center for Leadership and Media Studies shows attitudes may have shifted since then.

Of those polled in Virginia, 45 percent now support legalizing same-sex marriage while 46 percent oppose it.

In comparison, voters approved an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia to ban same-sex marriage by a 57-43 percent margin six years ago.

The new poll was taken March 20 to March 24 as the U.S. Supreme Court was getting ready to hear arguments on two same-sex marriage cases, one challenging a gay marriage ban in California and the other challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“Rarely does public opinion shift on a social issue as rapidly as it has for gay marriage,” says Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, has told WTOP that he still supports the ban on same-sex marriage but acknowledged it could be affected by a Supreme Court decision.

The same poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, also asked Virginians about the death penalty, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and raising the retirement age from 67 to 69.

Some of the other findings:

  • 65 percent of Virginians favor the death penalty while 27 percent oppose it.
  • 71 percent of Virginians support a road to citizenship for illegal immigrants, while 25 percent are against it.
  • A large majority oppose increasing the retirement age from 67 to 69. But among those ages 18 to 29, the breakdown was 50 percent in favor and 46 percent against.

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