Published: Feb. 28, 2014

Support for gay marriage in Michigan remains strong

Contact(s): Andy Henion Media Communications office: (517) 355-3294 cell: (517) 281-6949, Charles Ballard Department of Economics office: (517) 353-2961

As a federal judge in Detroit hears a case involving gay marriage and parental rights, Michigan State University’s latest State of the State Survey indicates support for gay marriage in Michigan remains strong.

The survey, completed Feb. 10, found 54 percent of the state’s residents support gay marriage while 36 percent oppose it. Those results are similar to State of the State Survey findings from 2012, when gay marriage was supported by 55 percent and opposed by 39 percent.

The results are in sharp contrast to results from 2010, when gay marriage was opposed by 51 percent, and favored by 48 percent.

“Support for gay marriage has increased in the last 20 years, in Michigan and across the country,” said Charles Ballard, MSU economics professor and director of the survey. “In Michigan, it appears that the period between 2010 and 2012 was the critical time when public opinion shifted most dramatically in favor of gay marriage. Since the results in 2012 and 2014 are fairly similar, these results suggest that the increase in support for gay marriage is a long-term phenomenon and not just a temporary one.”

Michigan adopted a ban on same-sex marriage in 2004. The State of the State Survey did not track Michigan’s attitudes toward gay marriage at that time. However, national surveys indicate a substantial shift in opinion in the decade since then.

This round of the state survey was the first to include a question about whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to adopt children. Nearly 59 percent said they were in favor of adoption by gays and lesbians, while 33 percent were opposed.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman is hearing a case involving a Hazel Park couple seeking to have Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage overturned. One of the women has two adopted children, while the other has one adopted child. Because unmarried couples cannot adopt children, if one parent were to die, the other would not have legal right to the other’s child.

The latest State of the State Survey is a telephone survey of 1,008 Michigan adults, including both cell phones and landlines. The survey’s margin of error is about 3.1 percent. Specifically, the survey showed:

  • A notable change in the attitudes of Michigan’s black residents. In 2012, gay marriage was favored by 31 percent of black respondents. By 2014, that number had grown to 47 percent.
  • Among those with at least some college education, 56 percent favored gay marriage in the latest survey. It was favored by 49 percent of those who had never been to college.
  • Gay marriage was favored by 55 percent of those who identified themselves as Catholics, 42 percent of Protestants, and 86 percent of those with no religious preference.
  • Some 67 percent of Democrats expressed support for gay marriage, compared with 30 percent of Republicans.

Support for gay marriage in Michigan remains strong, says Charles Ballard, economist and director of MSU's State of the State Survey.

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