Poll: Record 61 percent of Californians support same-sex marriage

Ruling Expected On California's Anti-Gay Marriage Bill, Proposition 8

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Opponents of Proposition 8, California's anti-gay marriage bill, hold signs outside of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on February 7, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

A record 61 percent of Californians now approve of allowing same-sex couples to marry, according to a poll released Thursday.

The Field Poll found 78 percent support among people 39 and younger and a solid majority of middle-aged residents now back gay marriage — 56 percent. Even among senior citizens there is 48 percent support, compared with 42 percent against.

It comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is about to hold a hearing on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.

The overall results represent a reversal in views about the issue in the 36 years the Field Poll has been taking surveys on gay marriage. In 1977, when the first survey was conducted, only 28 percent approved of gay marriage, while 59 percent were opposed.

The most recent survey found broad-based support, with the majority of most subgroups within the survey – men and women, all racial and ethnic groups, and each major region of the state – saying they favor gay marriage.

Ninety percent of people who described themselves as liberal said they approved of allowing gay couples to wed. The survey found 53 percent of Republicans were opposed, while 39 percent approved. Just 25 percent of those who said they were conservative favored gay marriage.

The justices will consider whether California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Twenty-nine other states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.

The Field Poll of 834 registered California voters was conducted Feb. 5-17. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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