New poll: Iowans think gay marriage not worth legislature's time

More than 60 percent of Iowans think gay marriage “does not deserve the Legislature’s limited time” this session, according to the latest poll conducted by Selzer and Associates for the Des Moines Register. The poll surveyed 805 Iowa adults from January 31 to Feburary 3, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The question named six issues on which legislation has been introduced during the 2010 session, which has been shortened by 20 days due to budget constraints:

The state Legislature can address large and small issues during the course of the session. For the following issues, please tell me if you think the issue does or does not deserve the Legislature’s limited time. Puppy mills. Gay marriage. Driving and texting. Gun control. Gambling. Payday loans.

62 percent of respondents said gay marriage does not deserve the legislature’s time, while only 36 percent said it does.

Here’s hoping this poll will bolster the spine of any wavering statehouse Democrats. Iowa House Republicans are expected to use procedural maneuvers this week to try to force a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. When they tried that last April, two of the 56 House Democrats joined Republicans on a procedural vote. House Minority leader Kraig Paulsen wasn’t deterred by the latest poll, telling the Des Moines Register,

“The majority party has successfully convinced people that that’s something that takes a lengthy period of time,” Paulsen said. “There’s no reason it should have to take more than 30 minutes.”

Poll respondents presumably know little about how much committee and floor time a marriage vote would consume, but I think Paulsen is missing the point here. Selzer in effect asked Iowans what’s important for the legislature to handle. More than three-fifths of respondents said gay marriage doesn’t rise to that level this session.

Notably, a recent poll commissioned by Republicans also suggests that gay marriage is a low priority for most Iowans. Voter Consumer Research conducted that poll in late January for The Iowa Republican blog and the Concordia Group (a political consulting firm run by Nick Ryan, with ties to the American Future Fund). Respondents were asked which three issues are most important to them: “Forty-one percent said jobs and unemployment, thirty-three said the economy, and twenty-eight percent said education.” Way down the priority list was “moral values” with just 14 percent, Craig Robinson indicated in this comment thread.

Last September, a Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register asked several questions about same-sex marriage. About 41 percent of respondents said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while 40 percent would vote against such an amendment. In addition, 92 percent of respondents said marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples had led to “no real change” in their own lives.

The conservative GOP base expects Republican legislators to try every trick in the book to bring a marriage vote to the floor. Iowa Democrats should make sure the public knows that while they were focusing on more important issues, Republicans kept trying to waste time on a marriage vote. Based on this polling as well as the results from last year’s special election in Iowa House district 90, I doubt gay marriage will be a winning issue for Republican candidates this November.

Later today I’ll discuss some other findings from the latest Des Moines Register poll. I was surprised to see that of the six issues Selzer asked about, only driving while texting had a majority (72 percent) say it was worth the legislature’s time to tackle this session.

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