This much is clear: Theres a lot of confusion over the so-called marriage amendment on the May 8 primary ballot.
Everything from what its called to what it would do has been disputed. Poll results released Thursday show solid support for the referendum until the pollsters explained to the potential voters what it proposes.
For instance, 7 percent of those surveyed thought it would legalize gay marriage, instead of the opposite.
For something as serious as amending the state constitution, that seems like a problem.
The survey by Public Policy Polling shows the amendment passing with 58 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed.
In January, the polling firm reported 56 percent in favor and 34 percent opposed; so the gap is narrowing ever so slightly.
But the poll found only about one-third of the respondents actually know what the amendment would do.
The proposal has often been referred to by the shorthand marriage amendment, but it goes beyond marriage.
If approved, it would secure in the states constitution a prohibition against legally recognizing gay marriage as well as civil unions between same-sex couples and domestic partnerships between couples of the opposite sex.
According to census figures, there were 223,000 couples in domestic partnerships in North Carolina in 2010. Only 12 percent of those were same-sex couples.
The PPP poll showed 28 percent of voters think the amendment only bans gay marriage. But when told that it also prohibits civil unions, support drops to 41 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed.
Thirty-four percent acknowledged that they really dont know what it means.
Alex Miller, co-chairman of the anti-amendment group Protect All N.C. Families, said the poll shows that people will vote against the amendment if they understand it. He said proof that the proposal is vague is in the official explanation of the amendment, which notes that the potential ramifications of the law would have to be settled in court.
What Im afraid of is the supporters of this amendment will be able to essentially sneak it in past the people of North Carolina and put it into our constitution, and once the majority understands its effects it will be too late, Miller said.
But Rep. Paul Skip Stam, the Republican majority leader in the state House and one of the authors of the amendment, says its not as complicated as opponents say.
Their objection is that they know it will not do the things they are alleging, Stam wrote in an email Thursday. The confusion comes from their own unwillingness to address the marriage amendment on its own terms.
John Robinson of the Elon University Poll found similar uncertainties in a poll conducted earlier this month in partnership with The News & Observer and ABC11.
Its very clear they, in varying degrees, support some kind of legal recognition for same-sex couples, but theres confusion over how they would vote on the amendment, Robinson said.
Robinson also points out that there is a kind of confusing double-negative about the issue: If you oppose gay marriage youre for the amendment, and if you support it youre against it.
Even what to call the amendment is controversial.
People have come to refer to it as Amendment One, although thats not what it will be titled on the ballot. There, it really doesnt have an official name at all, other than constitutional amendment.
The PPP survey of 1,191 likely primary voters was an automated phone poll taken between March 23 and Sunday. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percent.