Poll results show more support for ‘marriage equality’
A recent Eagleton Institute of Politics poll found that word choice matters when gay marriage figures into the question.
According to the poll, 52 percent of N.J. residents questioned are in favor of gay marriage, but the number jumps to 61 percent when the question is framed in terms of “marriage equality.”
Thirty-nine percent oppose legalizing gay marriage, and only 27 percent are against marriage equality.
“Framing matters, and we know that,” said David Redlawsk, poll director and a professor of political science at the University. “For many people when asked about marriage equality, it makes them think about their own marriages and makes them think about the idea of equality.”
Redlawsk said this was not true for everybody, especially in the case of the Republicans questioned. The change in terms did not affect them at all, keeping the ratio of supporters at 36 percent.
The poll also found 70 percent of those under 30 years old support legalizing gay marriage and 75 percent favor the idea of marriage equality.
Redlawsk said the probable reason for this is a new way of thinking about social issues such as gay marriage, rather than a coming-of-age attitude, which is liable to change later in life.
“This is a different way of looking at the world,” he said. “I think young people really wonder why this is an issue at all.”
Some University students’ opinions seemed to support the poll’s findings.
“I think everyone should have equal rights,” said Ben Chin, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
He said everyone should be recognized and have the legal rights so far held only by heterosexual couples.
“I don’t think they should be discriminated against just because they are a same-sex couple,” he said.
Chin also said the issue of gays’ rights to marry and marriage equality are the same, although he would like to see people agree equally with both terms despite the semantic differences.
James Enny, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the question of the legality of gay marriage should not be an issue in a modern world.
“I don’t see why not,” Enny said. “I don’t see it as a religious thing, and I don’t think it should matter if it’s a guy and a guy or a girl and a girl, whatever.”
He said marriage equality and gay marriage legality are one and the same.
One student who disagreed with the legalization of gay marriage was Hira Bakshi, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
“It’s too personal of an issue,” she said. “Constitutionally, I don’t think you are allowed to do that.”
She said the wording of “marriage equality” did not mean anything different, and she still disagreed with its legalization.
Christian Wilding, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he supported gay marriage.
“If legislation is what it takes to be accepted by everyone, then yeah,” he said. “I support it because it doesn’t bother anybody — be gay and married, be happy.”
He also agreed gay marriage and marriage equality were identical, but marriage equality is a term more easily supported by the general population of New Jersey.
According to the poll, nearly a quarter of the state population has a gay or lesbian family member, but those who did not have a gay acquaintance or family member favored marriage equality more.
For those who do not know any gay individuals, support climbs 16 points from 43 percent for gay marriage to 59 percent of marriage equality.
Redlawsk said people who did not have a gay acquaintance, when asked the question of marriage equality, had not previously thought about the term “equality” in those terms.
At the same time, people who knew someone gay had already made up their minds, therefore the difference was not as great.
“People who do not know gay or lesbian people, they probably haven’t thought about the issue as much,” he said. “They are more likely to be swayed by this term, ‘equality.’”
The numbers found by the poll did not reflect any changes since this summer’s poll. Redlawsk said there had not been enough time, but as compared to a poll from two years ago, changes were much more significant.
“A better indicator is when we polled on this two years ago, we were below 50 percent support,” he said. “It was 46 [in favor] to 40 [opposed] at that time, and now it is 52-36.”