MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Most Tennessee voters remain opposed to letting gay and lesbian couples legally marry, according to the first MTSU Poll taken since this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right.
Meanwhile, about half of Tennessee voters think abortion should be against the law in most or all cases, and attitudes on both issues break sharply along religious and political party lines.
“Reflecting patterns in previous MTSU Polls, opposition to the legality of both same-sex marriage and abortion runs highest among Tennessee’s evangelical Christian and Republican voters,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “In both groups, sizable majorities think it should be unlawful for same-sex couples to marry and think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.”
The poll randomly surveyed 603 registered voters statewide by telephone Oct. 25-27 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The poll’s question about same-sex marriage read, “Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally?”
On the question of same-sex marriage:
- 57 percent say they either “oppose” (18 percent) or “strongly oppose” (39 percent) permitting same-sex marriage.
- 29 percent either “favor” (18 percent) or “strongly favor” (11 percent) allowing such unions.
- A substantial 14 percent don’t know or decline to answer.
Opposition to the legality of same-sex marriage is especially strong among state voters who are evangelical Christians, Republicans, and age 60 or older. In each of those groups, about two-thirds of voters express opposition.
Same-sex marriage finds majority support (62 percent) among non-evangelical voters in Tennessee and falls just short of majority support (49 percent) among those age 18 to 34.
The 57 percent opposition to same-sex marriage found among Tennessee registered voters in this latest poll is statistically equivalent to the 55 percent opposition found in this past spring’s poll of all Tennessee adults.
It is significantly higher, though, than the 38 percent opposition recorded nationally by the Pew Research Center when it fielded the same question this past July. In that poll, a 54 percent majority expressed support for same-sex marriage, with only 7 percent undecided.
- 53 percent of the state’s voters think abortion should be against the law either in “most cases” (31 percent) or “all cases” (22 percent).
- 39 percent think it should be legal in either “most cases” (25 percent) or “all cases” (14 percent).
- Around 8 percent don’t know or decline to answer.
As with opinions on same-sex marriage, opinions on abortion break sharply along religious and political lines. Sixty-two percent of evangelical Christians, and 70 percent of Republicans, think abortion should be against the law in most or all cases. By contrast, 58 percent of non-evangelicals, and 59 percent of Democrats, think abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
Interviews for the poll were conducted by Issues & Answers Network Inc., which completed 603 telephone surveys among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters aged 18 and over.
Data was collected using Tennessee statewide voter registration sample with a mix of 60 percent landline and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 9 minutes.
Quotas by gender and geographic region were implemented to ensure the sampled respondents were representative of Tennessee’s adult population. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to determine the gender distribution each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions: East, Middle, and West. Data was weighted on age to ensure that it was representative of Tennessee registered voters
The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 for the entire sample percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced. Subgroups have wider margins of error.