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Same-Sex Marriage Surveys are All the Rage


Published April 1, 2009 at 11:10 a.m.

In this week's "Fair Game" we made mention of a phone poll regarding same-sex marriage being conducted by the Vermont Republican Party throughout the state.

The party has polled voters in 16 legislative districts, and plans to conduct several more before tomorrow's House debate and vote on the same-sex marriage bill. There continues to be pressure on House members, as well as the governor, to pass the bill. A rally last week in Montpelier brought more than 300 supporters under the Golden Dome (click here for videos of the rally).

Executive Director Rob Roper said the poll is based "grassroots" response, and they aren't cherry-picking districts. "It's not us dictating which districts should be polled," said Roper. "People are coming to us and asking us to poll in their district."

While not exactly a state referendum on the issue, Roper hopes the poll will offer lawmakers some guidance. 

Here's how it works. Each poll costs $400, so anyone who wants a district polled can write a check to the Vermont GOP and they'll have the poll conducted.  As of yesterday morning, the GOP had polled 9924 people in 16 legislative districts encompassing more than 40 towns throughout Vermont.

The poll asked respondents three questions, as you'll see in the results posted below. Given space constraints in the print edition, I thought I'd post the entire results here.

One analysis, i.e. spin, being offered is when you combine the first and second questions you have a strong majority of Vermonters who either oppose or want to wait on a same-sex marriage law. But, if you exclude the first question — since obviously lawmakers aren't waiting  — you see an even 8-8 split between districts opposed and those in favor.

As you'll see from the results, it does seem ironic that most of the polls (save a couple) are being conducted in swing districts where Democrats have been vulnerable in the past.

None of the polls conducted so far could be considered "scientific", not even the Town Meeting Day poll by the venerable State Sen. William Doyle (R-Washington). In that poll, of 13,000 respondents, 55 percent favor same-sex marriage, with 38 percent opposed and 7 percent not sure. In 2007, voters were split 46-46-8 on the same question. In 1998, 61 percent of Vermonters opposed same-sex marriage, 32 percent were in favor, and 7 percent were not sure.

We'll see if any of these polls have an effect on lawmakers, along with the words of former Gov. Howard Dean who urged fellow Dems Saturday night to "vote your conscience, not your district. Stand up for humanity — put human rights above politics."

Others are beginning to come "out of the closet" so to speak. Alex Aldrich, the head of the Vermont Arts Council, posted to his blog this week encouraging everyone to get informed.

Aldrich writes: "Many of you have already made up your mind one way or the other on gaymarriage. This post, however, is directed to those of you who have NOTmade up your mind about whether you support or oppose gay marriage." For "fair and balanced" links he directs readers to Take it to the People and Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force.

He then adds, "Still haven’t made up your mind? Go back and do it again, and yet againif you have to. I truly don’t care what your position ends up being. Ijust don’t want you or your children, grandchildren, orgreat-grandchildren to feel any regret that you didn’t take a positionand communicate it to your legislators when you had the chance."

"As to where I personally stand on this issue, feel free to draw your own conclusions," he concludes.

Thanks to the GOP poll, we know how some of you feel. Below are the poll results, by district, and the names of legislators who represent each district. My guess is both "sides" on this issue will find something in these numbers worth cheering.