Although six in 10 Americans think some form of legal recognition is appropriate for same-sex couples, only a third of Americans think those couples should be allowed to marry.
Another 27 percent of Americans support civil unions for same-sex couples, while 35 percent thinks there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships at all.
Americans are somewhat more supporting of gay marriage or civil unions than they were in 2004. Then just 22 percent supported gay marriage and 40 percent said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
How Americans feel about the issue of same-sex marriage varies greatly upon their age, gender, political affiliations, and the regions of the country from where they live.
While 41 percent Americans under 45 support legalizing gay marriage, only 18 percent of Americans over 65 agree, and nearly half of seniors do not think there should be any legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Americans between 45 and 64 generally support some form of civil unions between same-sex couples, though only 29 percent think same-sex couples should marry.
Women (38 percent) are more likely than men (27 percent) to support same-sex marriage, by a margin of 11 percentage points.
Republicans, conservatives, and white evangelicals oppose any legal recognition of same-sex couples, while Democrats and liberals are more likely to support same-sex marriage.
Regionally, same-sex marriage is most popular in the Northeast (44 percent support) - where Massachusetts and Connecticut have already established same-sex marriage as legal – and it is popular in the West (38 percent support). Same-sex marriage is far less popular in the Midwest (30 percent) and the South (25 percent).
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1142 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone March 12-16, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.