This week's Research 2000 poll of 600 likely Iowa voters for KCCI-TV included a couple of questions related to the rights of same-sex couples:
QUESTION: As you may know, same-sex marriages have been legal in Iowa for over a year. Would you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment which would over turn current law allowing same sex marriages in Iowa?
YES NO NOT SURE
ALL 39% 42% 19%
MEN 43% 40% 17%
WOMEN 35% 44% 21%
DEMOCRATS 22% 64% 14%
REPUBLICANS 66% 13% 21%
INDEPENDENTS 33% 45% 22%
QUESTION: Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriages, do you favor or oppose allowing same-sex couples the same benefits allowed to heterosexual couples, known as civil unions?
FAVOR OPPOSE NOT SURE
ALL 51% 40% 9%
MEN 47% 44% 9%
WOMEN 55% 36% 9%
DEMOCRATS 77% 21% 2%
REPUBLICANS 16% 68% 16%
INDEPENDENTS 55% 35% 10%
Less than a year after the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling, a slight plurality of Iowans would not support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Among independents, a plurality oppose a constitutional amendment and a strong majority would support equal rights for same-sex couples in the form of civil unions. Even among Republican respondents, just two-thirds supported banning gay marriage.
Research 2000's results are similar to the findings of a statewide poll Selzer and Co. conducted for the Des Moines Register last September. In that survey, 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.
In the most recent Des Moines Register poll, conducted less than a month ago, more than 60 percent of respondents said gay marriage "does not deserve the [Iowa] Legislature's limited time" this session.
Iowa conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart has complained that the Des Moines Register asked the wrong question two polls in a row. He thinks pollsters ought to ask Iowans whether citizens should be able to vote on a definition of marriage. The Iowa Republican blog commissioned a poll asking that question last summer and found that 67 percent of respondents said yes. However, that Republican poll conveniently failed to ask respondents whether they would support or oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Last week Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate defeated Republican efforts to force a floor vote on a marriage amendment. Although GOP candidates and interest groups will push their "let us vote" campaign this fall, I am less and less worried about the marriage issue hurting Democrats in the 2010 statehouse elections. Economic issues will be far more important to voters.