FARGO — For same-sex marriage to become legal in North Dakota, it may have to be done in the courts because many voters here have no appetite for it, according to a recent Forum Communications Co. poll.
Fifty percent said they oppose legalization compared to 37 percent who said they support it. More opponents of legalization said they felt strongly about their position than supporters.
Another 9 percent were neutral, and 5 percent did not answer.
Pollsters noted the strong generational difference, with a majority of voters 30 and younger supporting legalization while all other age groups opposing it with opposition growing with age. Women were less opposed to legalization compared to men.
The poll of 505 likely voters has a margin of error of 5 percent. It was conducted by the University of North Dakota’s College of Business and Public Administration in partnership with Forum Communications Co.
Same-sex marriage is banned by the North Dakota Constitution, which voters approved in 2004. A lawsuit challenging the ban, Jorgensen v. Montplaisir, was filed in June and is making its way through the federal court system.
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While poll results show opposition to same-sex marriage is very strong, it may have eroded since just a few years ago.
According to a report by the Williams Institute, a legal think tank at the University of California-Los Angeles, only 23 percent of North Dakotans were estimated to have supported same-sex marriage in 2004. By 2012, 40 percent were estimated to support same-sex marriage.
That 2012 number is close to the poll’s number.
Among supporters of legalizing same-sex marriage, 62 percent said they strongly support legalization while the rest said they somewhat support it. But among opponents, 83 percent said they strongly oppose legalization with the rest somewhat opposing. That sort of certainty among opponents seemed to grow with age, though the sample numbers are too small for meaningful results.
Pollsters only calculated the margin of error for all demographics, so margins of error are not available for demographic breakdowns.
Some of the clearest differences of opinion were between younger voters and their elders.
Among those 30 and younger, sometimes generalized as part of the millennial generation, 53 percent support legalization, 31 percent oppose and 16 percent were neutral. Of course, they make up just 20 percent of likely voters.
Strong opposition begins in the next age group, 31 to 45, with 41 percent supporting, 57 percent opposing and 2 percent neutral.
Among the oldest group, those 66 and older, 16 percent support, 67 percent oppose and 15 percent were neutral.
A majority of women and men oppose same-sex marriage. But the margin for women is much closer with 40 percent supporting legalization, 42 percent opposing and 13 percent neutral. Among men, 33 percent support, 58 percent oppose and 5 percent were neutral.
Support was as expected among major political parties. Among Republicans, 31 percent support, 60 percent oppose and 5 percent were neutral. Among Democrats, 54 percent support, 26 percent oppose and 16 percent were neutral. Among independents, 39 percent support, 55 percent oppose and 4 percent were neutral.