The Public Religion Research Institute released polling results on support for same-sex marriage. PRRI’s 2014 American Atlas survey interviewed over 40,000 respondents, enough to give a glimpse into how residents in each state view the legality of same-sex marriage. Not surprisingly, states in the southeast have public opinion opposed to same-sex marriage; the northeast and Pacific coast are most in favor.
A few points to remember when interpreting these poll results:
- Sample size Even with a very large sample, some states will still have relatively few people interviewed. In the graphic, I show this by showing the percentage supporting same-sex marriage — give or take the margin of error. For some small population states, this can be quite broad (as much as 20 percentage points). Delaware, for example, could have support as low as 48% or as high as 66%.
- Is it a majority? I take the margin or error into account when I indicate whether a majority in a state supports same-sex marriage. States need to be clearly on one side or the other of the 50-percent line. Those that are statistically on both sides are not colored.
- Comparing states Just because your state is higher/lower than another state doesn’t mean that the states are different. Look at the range taking into account the sample size. Utah has a higher average than Arkansas, but statistically they’re not that different. Similarly, Vermont may or may not be more supportive than New Mexico.
- Question wording: PRRI asked people: All in all, do you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally? Wording is always important. PRRI’s question is similar to others used by other polls. The average for the nation (54 percent stating “favor” or “strongly favor”) is the same as found in other polls.