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Poll Finds Record Support for Same-Sex Marriage in California

The same week the Obama administration filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, a new Field Poll was released showing that support for same-sex marriage in the state has increased drastically since the ban was passed there a little more than four years ago.

The Field Poll, conducted Feb. 5 to 17 among 834 registered voters, found a record majority of Californians, 61 percent, say they support extending the right to marry to same-sex couples. Just 32 percent were against doing so.

California voters approved the state’s ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, in November 2008. At the time, a Field poll found that 51 percent of registered voters supported same-sex marriage; 42 percent were against it. Still, Proposition 8 passed, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Since 2009, however, support for gay marriage in California has risen sharply. A chart of Field polling from the Bay Area News Group shows the shift:

Another major California pollster, the Public Policy Institute of California, has not surveyed the state about gay marriage since March 2012, but its polling has shown the same trend as the Field Poll. The Public Policy Institute of California found support for same-sex marriage increased from 44 percent in March 2009 to 54 percent in March 2012. Opposition decreased from 49 percent to 40 percent.

California’s evolving views on same-sex marriage are indicative of a fast-moving shift in attitudes nationwide. In the past few years, support for gay marriage overtook opposition, according to polling, and the trend has continued. In a national CBS News poll of 1,148 adults in early February, 54 percent of respondents said it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry.

In 2011, FiveThirtyEight published a statistical model that used past ballot initiatives as well as data on religious participation to project the vote share in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on hypothetical ballot measures prohibiting same-sex marriage. The model projected that — unlike as in 2008 — California voters would have rejected a same-sex marriage ban had it been on the ballot in November 2012.

The latest poll from Field appears to bear that out.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.