Taubman Center for Public Policy

Most Rhode Islanders Support Same-Sex Marriage, Survey Finds

May 27, 2009  |  Media Contact: Deborah Baum |  401-863-2476
Most Rhode Islanders would support a law legalizing same-sex marriage according to a new Brown University survey of registered Rhode Island voters. The poll was conducted May 18-20, 2009.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Most Rhode Island voters favor same-sex marriage by a margin of 60 percent to 31 percent, according to a new statewide survey conducted by researchers at Brown University. A larger majority, 75 percent, would support a law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. Additionally, the survey found that President Barack Obama has considerable support in Rhode Island, with 74 percent of respondents approving of his job as president and 68 percent approving of his handling of the economy.

The survey was conducted May 18-20, 2009, at Brown University by Marion Orr, the Fred Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and Political Science and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy and the John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory. It is based on a statewide random sample of 593 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus 4 percentage points.

When surveyed, 60 percent of registered voters indicated they would support a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married and 31 percent said they would oppose a same-sex marriage law; 9 percent did not know. There were no appreciable differences between men and women — 60 percent of women and 59 percent of men support same-sex marriage. The poll results show generational differences in support of same-sex marriage. Younger voters support same-sex marriage at a higher levels than older voters. For example, among 18-29 year olds, 87 percent support same-sex marriage, as do 70 percent of the 30-39 year olds. Among those 60-69 years old, however, only 49 percent support same-sex marriage, and only 32 percent of those 70 and older support same-sex marriage. The survey also uncovered partisan differences in support for same-sex marriage. While 77 percent of Democrats say they support same-sex marriage, only 28 percent of Republicans do. Among independents, 56 percent said they would support a law allowing same-sex couples to marry.

The survey also asked respondents if they would support or oppose a law allowing same-sex couples to form a civil union. Seventy-five percent of the respondents indicated they would support civil unions for same-sex couples. Only 17 percent said they would oppose a law that would allow civil unions for same-sex couples. While generational differences are also present on the civil union issues (younger voters are more likely to support civil unions for same-sex couples), a majority of respondents in all age categories said they would support a civil union law. Indeed, 70 percent of those 60-69 years of age and 57 percent of those over 70 years of age say they would support a law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. Showing the broader appeal of a civil union law compared to a same-sex marriage law, a majority (55 percent) of Republicans reported they would support a civil union law for same-sex couples.

The survey also asked a series of questions related to the economy. A large majority — 96 percent — of respondents rated the nation’s economy as “not so good” or “poor.” Ninety-eight percent of the respondents described Rhode Island’s economy as “not so good” or “poor,” up from 82 percent in the Taubman Center poll conducted in February 2009. The poll found that 69 percent of Rhode Island’s registered voters personally know a friend or family member who recently lost their job, up from 66 percent of registered voters interviewed in February 2009.

The survey results present a mix of views on President Obama’s efforts to address the nation’s economic ills. While 68 percent approve of his handling of the economy, large majorities believe that his signature economic stimulus bill “hasn’t made a difference” in helping turn around the national economy. Eighty percent said the economic stimulus “hasn’t made a difference” in their personal finance and 66 percent report that the economic stimulus package “hasn’t made a difference” in their local community.

President Obama’s approval rating was high, with 74 percent of respondents saying he is doing an “excellent” or “good” job. Only 23 percent said the president was doing “only fair” or “poor.” Sixty-three percent of Rhode Island voters rate the performance of Sen. Jack Reed as “good” or “excellent.” Forty-three percent believe Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is doing a “good” or “excellent” job. Forty-two percent feel Rep. Patrick Kennedy is doing a “good” or “excellent” job, and 49 percent believe Rep. Jim Langevin is doing a “good” or “excellent” job.

When asked about the job performance of state officials, 36 percent feel Gov. Donald Carcieri is doing a “good” or “excellent” job. Twenty-two percent believe Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts is doing an a “good” or “excellent” job. Forty-seven percent think Attorney General Patrick Lynch is going a “good” or “excellent” job. Twenty-five percent feel Secretary of State Ralph Mollis is doing a “good” or “excellent” job. Forty-one percent believe Treasurer Frank Caprio, Jr. is doing a “good” or “excellent” job.

Forty-five percent say Providence Mayor David Cicilline is doing a “good” or “excellent” job. Fifteen percent believe House Speaker William Murphy is doing a “good” or “excellent” job, and 21 percent feel Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed is doing an a “good” or “excellent” job.

Findings also show that a majority — 65 percent — of Rhode Island voters believes the state is on the wrong track.

For more information, contact Marion Orr at (401) 863-9436.

May 2009 Survey Questions and Responses

  1. Would you support or oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married?
    Support 60%; Oppose 31%; DK/NA 9%
  2. Would you support or oppose a law that would allow civil unions for same-sex couples?
    Support 75%; Oppose 17%; DK/NA 8%
  3. Do you think same-sex couples should be allowed legally to marry, should be allowed legally to form civil unions but not marry, or should not be allowed to obtain legal recognition of their relationships?
    Should be allowed legally to marry 55%;
    Should be allowed legally to form civil unions but not marry 22%;
    Should not be allowed to obtain legal recognition of their relationship 15%;
    DK/NA 8%
  4. How would you rate the job Barack Obama is doing as president?
    Excellent 36%; Good 38%; Only fair 16%; Poor 7%; Don’t know 2%; No answer 1%
  5. How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. Senator?
    Excellent 26%; Good 37%; Only fair 18%; Poor 10%; Don’t know 9%; No answer 0%
  6. How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as U.S. Senator?
    Excellent 10%; Good 33%; Only fair 27%; Poor 16%; Don’t know 14%; No answer 0%
  7. How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. Representative?
    Excellent 9%; Good 33%; Only fair 30%; Poor 21%; Don’t know 7%; No answer 0%
  8. How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as U.S. Representative?
    Excellent 9%; Good 40%; Only fair 22%; Poor 7%; Don’t know 21%; No answer 1%
  9. How would you rate the job Don Carcieri is doing as governor?
    Excellent 7%; Good 29%; Only fair 27%; Poor 32%; Don’t know 5%; No answer 0%
  10. How would you rate the job Elizabeth Roberts is doing as lieutenant governor?
    Excellent 2%; Good 20%; Only fair 25%; Poor 11%; Don’t know 40%; No answer 2%
  11. How would you rate the job Patrick Lynch is doing as attorney general?
    Excellent 7%; Good 40%; Only fair 30%; Poor 9%; Don’t know 12%; No answer 2%
  12. How would you rate the job Ralph Mollis is doing as secretary of state?
    Excellent 3%; Good 22%; Only fair 21%; Poor 8%; Don’t know 45%; No answer 1%
  13. How would you rate the job Frank Caprio Jr. is doing as general treasurer?
    Excellent 10%; Good 31%; Only fair 18%; Poor 6%; Don’t know 34%; No answer 1%
  14. How would you rate the job William Murphy is doing as House Speaker?
    Excellent 2%; Good 13%; Only fair 20%; Poor 19%; Don’t know 43%; No answer 3%
  15. How would you rate the job Teresa Paiva-Weed is doing as Senate President?
    Excellent 3%; Good 18%; Only fair 16%; Poor 17%; Don’t know 45%; No answer 1%
  16. How would you rate the job David Cicilline is doing as mayor of Providence?
    Excellent 7%; Good 38%; Only fair 27%; Poor 17%; Don’t know 9%; No answer 2%
  17. Would you describe the state of the nation’s economy these days as — excellent, good, not so good, or poor?
    Excellent 0%; Good 3%; Not so good 44%; Poor 52%; DK/NA 1%
  18. Would you describe the state of Rhode Island’s economy these days as — excellent, good, not so good, or poor?
    Excellent 0%; Good 2%; Not so good 23%; Poor 75%; DK/NA 0%
  19. Would you describe the state of your own personal finances these days as — excellent, good, not so good, or poor?
    Excellent 5%; Good 52%; Not so good 29%; Poor 13%; DK/NA 1%
  20. Do you personally know a friend or family member who recently lost their job?
    Yes 69%; No 31%; DK/NA 0%
  21. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy?
    Approve 68%; Disapprove 20%; Not sure 12%
  22. So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has helped the national economy, hurt the national economy, or hasn't made much difference?
    Helped 27%; Hurt 9%; Hasn’t made a difference 57%; DK/NA 7%
  23. So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has helped your personal financial situation, hurt your personal financial situation , or hasn't made much difference?
    Helped 11%; Hurt 7%; Hasn’t made a difference 80%; DK/NA 2%
  24. So far, do you think the economic stimulus program has helped your local community, hurt your local community, or hasn't made much difference?
    Helped 16%; Hurt 7%; Hasn’t made a difference 66%; DK/NA 11%
  25. Generally speaking, would you say things in Rhode Island are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?
    Right direction 13%; Off on wrong track 65%; Mixed 17%; Not sure 5%; DK/NA 0%

Note: Percentages are rounded up at .5 and above.

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.