POLL OF THE DAY: HUH? North Carolina Does Not Understand The Gay Marriage Ban It Will Be Voting On

north carolina welcome signWelcome to North Carolina, where no one understands Amendment 1.

Photo: ckramer via Flickr

On May 8, North Carolinians will vote on a gay marriage bill as part of their state’s primary.Problem is, North Carolinians don’t quite understand Amendment 1, which would define marriage in the state as being between one man and one woman. 

That comes from a new survey from Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling agency. 

Here’s the key finding: Only 31 per cent of registered voters polled in North Carolina correctly identified that the amendment would ban both gay marriage and civil unions. Now, on the surface, 58 per cent of those voters would vote for the ban. 

But at the same time, 51 per cent of those voters actually support some form of recognition — either marriage or civil unions — for gay couples. 

“It’s surprising that so few voters know what’s going on,” PPP’s Dustin Ingalls said in a phone interview Thursday. 

Confusing language

Here's the basic first question that asks in terms of the language in the bill. It shows that 58 per cent of North Carolinians polled would vote for the amendment, compared with 38 per cent against it and 4 per cent that are undecided.

'The legislature designed it to be that way,' Ingalls said. 'They put language on the ballot that makes it seem innocuous. That's not a full representation of the amendment, and that's by design.'

...But most of North Carolina supports SOME legal recognition.

Here's where it starts to get a little fishy. When the question of legal recognition for the unions of gay couples is put in simpler terms, the majority of North Carolina voters flood their support. 50-one per cent support some kind of legal recognition, either through gay marriage or civil unions. That compares with 45 per cent who don't think there should be any legal recognition.

No one knows what is going on.

And here's confirmation of the confusion of Amendment 1. To start off, 34 per cent of people admit they have no idea what's going on. Then, 28 per cent of people think it only bans gay marriage and not civil unions in addition. And, somehow, 7 per cent of those polled think it actually legalizes gay marriage.

In fact, only 31 per cent of voters truly understand the full ramifications of the amendment.

Changing the opinion by putting it in simpler terms

And this is where it gets interesting.

When Amendment 1 is spelled out in simple terms, a majority -- for now -- would vote against the bill. Of course, 17 per cent are not sure. But just when phrased differently, support for the 'yes' vote drops 17 per cent.

This is where advocates think there is time to turn things around with education and advertising and awareness campaigns. Ingalls compared it to Mississippi's so-called 'personhood' amendment that was on the state's ballot last year, which would have declared that life in the state begins at fertilization. It was eventually rejected by 55 per cent of voters. But Ingalls said that PPP polls in the weeks leading up to the vote showed it passing by a 'considerable margin.'

'It ended up losing after enough voters had been informed by TV ads, news campaigns and all that stuff about what it actually did,' he said.

Which voters could shift?

And here's where those inroads could be made: independents. Interestingly, both parties would vote for Amendment 1 -- Republicans by a considerable margin, and Democrats by only a single percentage point. But there is overwhelming dissent among Independents, where 55 per cent oppose the amendment.

So, the likely targets for the campaigns to educate voters will likely focus on shifting even more of those Independents and the Democrats that can be swayed.

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