Taubman Center Public Opinion Survey

Poll: R.I. supports same-sex marriage

February 28, 2013  |  Media Contact: Courtney Coelho |  401-863-7287
A new statewide public opinion survey conducted by the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University finds strong support for same-sex marriage in Rhode Island. Voters continue to worry about the state’s economy and express little confidence that state government officials will make the right decisions for Rhode Island’s future.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A Brown University survey of Rhode Island voters finds that 60.4 percent of respondents favor extending the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples, a number nearly identical to a survey conducted by Brown in May 2009. Voters continue to be pessimistic about Rhode Island’s economy and most express little confidence that state government officials will make the right decisions for the state’s future.

Researchers at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory at Brown University surveyed a random sample of 593 Rhode Island voters Feb. 21-23, 2013. The poll has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percent.

Among those who favor same-sex marriage, 62.1 percent said they were strongly in favor. The poll showed that belief in equality is the main driver among same-sex marriage supporters. When asked why they support same-sex marriage, nearly half (49.2 percent) cited same-sex marriage as an equal rights issue and 27.7 percent said they support it because it is a personal choice issue unrelated to sexual orientation.

Twenty-six percent of Rhode Island voters oppose same-sex marriage, with 59.5 percent of this group strongly opposed. Among the opponents of same-sex marriage, religious beliefs are the main driver. Asked why they oppose same sex-marriage, 40.8 percent cited religious reasons and 22.4 percent said that marriage should be between a man and a woman. However, 10.5 percent of the opponents of same-sex marriage believed that civil unions are sufficient for same-sex couples who want to legalize their commitment.

The poll found generational differences among supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage. The highest level of support for same-sex marriage came from registered voters ages 30 to 39 (88.9 percent favor/11.1 percent oppose) and voters ages 18 to 29 (77.1 percent favor/22.9 percent oppose). Support for same-sex marriage dropped considerably for those voters who are 70 years or older; 34.6 percent said they favor same-sex marriage.

Confidence in state government

The poll indicates that few Rhode Islanders trust state government to make good decisions for the state’s future. Just 16.7 percent of voters say they have a good or great amount of confidence in state leaders to make the right decisions for Rhode Island’s future. Rhode Island voters have slightly more confidence in Democratic state legislators to make the right decisions: 23.1 percent expressed a good or great level of confidence in Democrats and 13.7 percent expressed a good or great level of confidence in Republicans.

The economy

Rhode Islanders continue to view the economy in a negative light. An overwhelming majority thinks the national economy is not so good or poor (83.7 percent) and the state’s economy is not so good or poor (94.2 percent), numbers that are nearly the same as in the Taubman Center’s February 2012 poll. However, a majority (56.7 percent) feels their own finances are in good or excellent shape.

Approval ratings

Approval ratings — the percentage of respondents rating an official’s performance as good or excellent — changed slightly for state and local elected officials, compared to October 2012. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras’s approval rating stands at 63.7 percent. Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s approval stands at 25.5 percent, and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts has a 30.9-percent approval rating. State Treasurer Gina Raimondo received a rating of good or excellent from 56.0 percent of voters.

Among national officials, President Barack Obama has an approval rating of 51.6 percent. Sen. Jack Reed earned an approval rating of 54.1 percent, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has 43.7 percent of voters’ approval. Rep. David Cicilline has an approval rating of 27.1 percent, and Rep. Jim Langevin’s approval rating stands at 41.4 percent.

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

Questions and answers

  1. How would you rate the job Barack Obama is doing as president? excellent 16.2%;  good 35.4%;  only fair 23.1%;  poor 24.8%;  DK/NA .5%
  2. How would you rate the job Jack Reed is doing as U.S. senator? excellent 15.5%;  good 38.6%;  only fair 26.0%;  poor 13.0%;  DK/NA 6.9%
  3. How would you rate the job Sheldon Whitehouse is doing as U.S. senator? excellent 10.6%;  good 33.1%;  only fair 27.7%;  poor 21.2%;  DK/NA 7.4%
  4. How would you rate the job David Cicilline is doing as U.S. representative? excellent 3.2%;  good 23.9%;  only fair 27.7%;  poor 31.9%;  DK/NA 13.3%
  5. How would you rate the job Jim Langevin is doing as U.S. representative? excellent 8.3%;  good 33.1%;  only fair 28.0%;  poor 18.2%;  DK/NA 12.4%
  6. How would you rate the job Lincoln Chafee is doing as governor? excellent 4.9%;  good 20.6%;  only fair 30.0%;  poor 42.2%;  DK/NA 2.3%
  7. How would you rate the job Elizabeth Roberts is doing as lieutenant governor? excellent 4.9%;  good 26.0%;  only fair 28.5%;  poor 11.3%;  DK/NA 29.3%
  8. How would you rate the job Peter Kilmartin is doing as attorney general? excellent 3.5%;  good 30.7%;  only fair 24.5%;  poor 6.9%;  DK/NA 34.4%
  9. How would you rate the job A. Ralph Mollis is doing as secretary of state? excellent 6.1%;  good 28.0%;  only fair 29.2%;  poor 7.4%;  DK/NA 29.3%
  10. How would you rate the job Gina Raimondo is doing as general treasurer? excellent 25.6%;  good 30.4%;  only fair 15.3%;  poor 9.9%;  DK/NA 18.8%
  11. How would you rate the job Gordon Fox is doing as House speaker? excellent 2.2%;  good 21.1%;  only fair 26.5%;  poor 25.0%;  DK/NA 25.2%
  12. How would you rate the job Teresa Paiva-Weed is doing as Senate president? excellent 2.5%;  good 18.4%;  only fair 25.0%;  poor 23.1%;  DK/NA 31.0%
  13. How would you rate the job Angel Taveras is doing as mayor of Providence? excellent 20.4%;  good 43.3%;  only fair 17.5%;  poor 5.9%;  DK/NA 12.9%
  14. Would you describe the state of the nation’s economy these days as: excellent 0.2%;  good 15.5%;  not so good 47.4%;  poor 36.3%;  DK/NA .6%
  15. Would you describe the state of Rhode Island’s economy these days as: excellent 0.0%;  good 4.7%;  not so good 33.7%;  poor 60.5%;  DK/NA 1.1%
  16. Would you describe the state of your own personal finances these days as: excellent 5.9%;  good 50.8%;  not so good 25.1%;  poor 15.2%;  DK/NA 3.0%
  17. Generally speaking, would you say things in Rhode Island are going in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track? right direction 20.7%;  off on wrong track 63.4%;  mixed 11.6%;  DK/NA 4.3%
  18. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy? approve 49.2%;  disapprove 43.3%;  DK/NA 7.5%
  19. Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into same-sex marriages? favor 60.4%;  oppose 26.1%;  depends* 3.7%;  DK/NA 9.8%
  20. [Asked of people who favor allowing same-sex marriage] Would you say that you strongly favor or just somewhat favor? strongly favor 62.1%;  somewhat favor 32.5%;  depends* 3.0%;  not sure 2.4%
  21. [Asked of people who oppose allowing same-sex marriage]
    Would you say that you strongly oppose or just somewhat oppose? strongly oppose 59.5%;  somewhat oppose 32.0%;  depends* 1.8%;  not sure 6.7%
  22. [Asked of people who favor allowing same-sex marriage] What are some of the reasons why you favor legal same-sex marriages? [open-ended responses recorded as:]
        Equal rights/Everyone should have same rights, freedom  49.2%
        Personal choice/Love, Happiness matters, not sexual orientation  27.7%
        Not my business/Not government’s business to decide  4.8%
        Have friends/family who are gay/lesbian  6.6%
        Everyone is equal in God’s eyes  1.7%
        Born that way  1.4%
        Medical, insurance, financial purposes  0.6%
        Need to separate state and church  2.0%
        Other  5.4%
        No opinion  0.6%
  23. [Asked of people who oppose allowing same-sex marriage]
    What are some of the reasons why you oppose legal same-sex marriages? [open-ended responses recorded as:]
        Religion/Bible says it is wrong  40.8%
        Marriage should be between a man and woman  22.4%
        Morally wrong/Have traditional beliefs  7.9%
        Civil unions are sufficient  10.5%
        Unnatural/Against laws of nature  5.3%
        Undermines traditional family structure/Mother and father  6.6%
        Other  4.6%
        No opinion  1.9%
  24. How much confidence do you have in state government officials to make the right decisions for the state’s future - a great deal of confidence, a good amount, just some or none at all? great amount 0.8%;  good amount 15.9%;  just some 51.4%;  none at all 30.4%;  DK/NA 1.5%
  25. How much confidence do you have in Democratic state legislators to make the right decisions for the state’s future - a great deal of confidence, a good amount, just some or none at all? great amount 2.5%;  good amount 20.6%;  just some 44.4%;  none at all 28.7%;  DK/NA 3.8%
  26. How much confidence do you have in Republican state legislators to make the right decisions for the state’s future - a great deal of confidence, a good amount, just some or none at all? great amount 1.0%;  good amount 12.6%;  just some 43.3%;  none at all 35.9%;  DK/NA 7.2%

Attitudes toward same-sex marriage by age of respondents

AgeFavorOpposeDepends*DK/NATotal
18-2927 (77.1%)8 (22.9%)0 (0.0%)0 (0.0%)35 (100.0%)
30-3932 (88.9%)4 (11.1%)0 (0.0%)0 (0.0%)36 (100.0%)
40-4975 (74.3%)18 (17.8%)2 (2.0%)6 (5.9%)101 (100.0%)
50-59100 (58.5%)42 (24.6%)6 (3.5%)23 (13.4%)171 (100.0%)
60-6982 (61.7%)28 (21.1%)8 (6.0%)15 (11.2%)133 (100.0%)
70 and over37 (34.6%)53 (49.5%)5 (4.7%12 (11.2%)107 (100.0%)
DK/NA5 (50.0%)2 (20.0%)1 (10.0%)2 (20.0%)10 (100.0%)
Total 358 (60.4%)155 (26.1%)22 (3.7%)58 (9.8%)593 (100.0%)

* Voluntary response, not provided among suggested options

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.