* From the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute…
There has been a significant increase in support in Illinois for legalizing gay marriage, according to a series of polls by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
The issue is back in the news with the U.S. Supreme Court considering marriage equality issues, and Institute polls show a dramatic evolution of support in the state during the past six years.
The most recent Simon Poll, conducted Feb. 28 to March 10, shows 54.9 percent of registered Illinois voters in support of marriage equality; 20.0 percent favoring civil unions; 18.4 percent opposed to both, and 6.7 percent unsure. The survey of 1,000 voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Opposition to gay marriage has faded across the board in the state, including among Republicans, conservatives and evangelicals.
The issue of gay marriage has appeared in nearly every statewide Simon Poll since 2009. In that time, opinion has gone from being almost equally divided between those favoring full-marriage rights or civil unions versus no legal recognition at all, also called “traditional marriage,” to a solid majority favoring full-marriage rights for the past three Simon Polls since February 2014.
When support for civil unions is incorporated, three-fourths of Illinoisans (74.9 percent) now see a place for legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
The poll also found:
• Support for marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples is not limited to liberals and Democrats. Among Illinois Republicans, over two-thirds (67.8 percent) support some type of legal recognition with 38.0 percent of respondents in the latest Simon Poll (March 2015) favoring full-marriage equality and with another 29.8 percent favoring civil unions. Just over a quarter (27.7 percent) of GOP supporters say there should be no legal recognition for same-sex couples.
The 2015 result is notable compared to its 2009 counterpart, in which nearly half (47.7 percent) of Republicans took the no-legal-rights stance and only one in ten favored full marriage rights.
• Opposition to legal recognition among evangelicals in Illinois has also faded. In 2009, 70.9 percent opposed any legal recognition for same-sex relationships. Today, that number is 45.7 percent. There are 49.1 percent of evangelicals who either support gay marriage or civil unions.
In 2009, only 4.1 percent of evangelicals favored full recognition. Today, that figure is 23.4 percent.
“Perhaps the most surprising development is the transforming views among evangelicals,” said Kent Dolezal, Simon Graduate Research Fellow. “Finding more in support of some legal recognition than not is a development which may have an impact going into the Republican presidential primaries.”
• Opinion among Independents also underwent a shift between the February 2013 and February 2014 Simon Poll. Although a clear majority of Independents favored some sort of legal recognition by 2013, February 2014 saw support for full legal rights reach nearly 60 percent. In the same time frame, those favoring civil unions dropped from 46 percent to 14 percent.
• Support is strongest among Democrats, with over 60 percent in favor of full rights since 2013, up from four in ten in 2009. From an ideological perspective, liberals currently favor marriage equality at a rate topping 75 percent. Moderates have seen their support go from just over one-third (33.6 percent) in 2009 to nearly two-thirds (65.9 percent) in the latest Simon Poll.
• From 2010 to 2015, conservative views shifted dramatically. In 2010, 15.6 percent of conservatives supported same-sex marriage. By, this year, that figure grew to 31.8 percent. Those who opposed any legal recognition of same-sex marriage dropped from 41.7 percent to 29.2 percent.
• At 66.5 percent, marriage equality sees its strongest support in Chicago, a nearly 30-point increase since 2009. The Chicago suburbs see majority support (55.6 percent), with Downstate residents nearing half at 46 percent. Downstate results also demonstrate the dramatic 2013-14 shift when support went from 27.8 percent to 42.5 percent.