About 56 percent of North Carolinians oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, according to a new poll - a result virtually unchanged from seven months ago, despite a big push from Republican lawmakers to get the amendment on the ballot.
The Elon University poll released Friday does not directly correlate to how the state would vote in the May referendum because the survey includes all residents and does not screen for eligible or likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
But the results do mirror a September survey from left-leaning Public Policy Polling that showed 55 percent of voters would cast ballots against the amendment. Another poll from the conservative-leaning Civitas Institute showed the state would approve the amendment.
The ballot question - to prohibit legal recognition of same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships - will get significant attention in the next eight months, said Mileah Kromer, the assistant director of the Elon poll, which surveyed 594 residents this week.
"It doesn't necessarily translate into vote share," she said. "What we are going to see on both sides is people trying to turn this voter opinion into voter preference."
At the same time, a third of residents support full marriage rights for same-sex couples, a 12 percentage point jump from a March 2009 survey.
"That's a large change," said Chris Cooper, the director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University, who noted that younger generations are leading the shift in opinion.
Other results in the polling data showed that Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's approval ratings don't bode well for her re-election bid. A slight majority - 51 percent - disapprove of her job performance, compared with 41 percent who approve. An even smaller percentage, 36 percent, approve of her handling of the economy, the survey shows.
The economy remains the most important issue for residents, and less than one in five polled expect it to get better by the end of the year. Nearly a third anticipate that it will get worse.
The economy will be the driving factor in the next election, Kromer said. "A lot of people vote with their pocketbooks."