DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
NEW YORK — Poll after poll shows public support for same-sex marriage steadily increasing, to the point where it’s now a majority viewpoint. Yet in all 32 states where gay marriage has been on the ballot, voters have rejected it.
It’s possible the streak could end in November, when Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington state are likely to have closely contested gay marriage measures on their ballots.
For now, however, there remains a gap between the national polling results and the way states have voted. It’s a paradox with multiple explanations, from political geography to the likelihood that some conflicted voters tell pollsters one thing and then vote differently.
“It’s not that people are lying. It’s an intensely emotional issue,” said Amy Simon, a pollster based in Oakland, Calif. “People can report to you how they feel at the moment they’re answering the polls, but they can change their mind.”
California experienced that phenomenon in November 2008, when voters, by a 52-48 margin, approved a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution. A statewide Field Poll that September indicated Proposition 8 would lose decisively; an updated poll a week before the vote still showed it trailing by 5 percentage points.
California is an unusual case. It’s one of a few reliably Democratic states that have had a statewide vote rebuffing same-sex marriage. The vast majority of the referendums have been in more conservative states, which have a greater predilection for using ballot measures to set social policy. The 32 states that have rejected gay marriage at the polls make up just over 60 percent of the U.S. population.
Voters in liberal states such as Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, where gay marriage was legalized by judges or legislators, might vote to affirm those decisions but haven’t had the opportunity.
Most of the states that voted against gay marriage did so between 2004 and 2008. Since then, only Maine in 2009 and North Carolina on May 8 have rebuffed same-sex marriage in referendums, while legislatures in Washington state, Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii, New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Illinois and Delaware have voted for same-sex marriage or civil unions.
In all, there are now six states with legal same-sex marriage and nine more granting gay and lesbian couples broad marriage-style rights via civil unions or domestic partnerships. Together, those 15 states account for about 35 percent of the U.S. population.