Poll finds New Jersey residents narrowly support gay marriage

New Jersey residents narrowly support legalizing same-sex marriage but do not consider it a high priority, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released this morning.

By a 46% to 42% margin, New Jersey residents think same sex couples should have the right to marry, while 12% are unsure. If the legislature were to pass legislation legalizing gay marriage, 52% said they would accept it, while 40% said they would support a constitutional amendment banning it.

In California last year, residents voted in favor of Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to recognize marriage as between only a man and a woman, overturning a California State Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have right to marry. And earlier this month, Maine residents voted to repeal the state’s gay marriage statute.

But pollster David Redlawsk said New Jerseyans appear more likely to accept legalization of same sex marriage.

“While this tests opinion outside the intensity of a campaign to ban gay marriage, as occurred in California, there is more of a ‘live and let live’ attitude in New Jersey than in many other states that have dealt with this issue,” he said.

Only 2% of New Jereyans consider gay marriage the most important issue facing the state, while 15% consider it among the top issues. Another 37% consider it “somewhat important,” 44% say it’s “not at all important.”

Among those polled, supporters of gay marriage were more likely to consider it an important issue than those opposed to it.

When asked if they would rather see a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a constitutional amendment banning both gay marriage and civil unions, or accept gay marriage, a majority – 52% — said they would accept it.

“If the Legislature passes a bill on gay marriage, results suggest that most New Jersey residents will accept the decision,” said Redlawsk. “There will be a strong reaction from opponents, but for the most part, opponents actually see this as a less important issue than do supporter.”

The poll also found that those with gay co-workers, close friends and family members are more likely to support gay marriage.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll surveyed 903 New Jersey adults between November 6 and 10 – half of whom had been interviewed by the survey before election day, but not about gay marriage. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3%.

Poll finds New Jersey residents narrowly support gay marriage