After 57% of Virginia voters approved a state ban on same-sex marriage just five years ago, opinions on same-sex marriage appear to have shifted significantly according to new numbers produced by a bipartisan pair of pollsters.
The new poll released by the Human Rights Campaign found that 55% of Virginians now support gay marriage. The poll, conducted by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm Target Point Consulting, asked questions about attitudes toward the LGBT community in Virginia immediately following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and not uphold California’s same-sex marriage ban.
Democrats hope that a renewed focus on LGBT issues could have an impact in the state's closely watched governor's race this fall and energize progressive voters in races across the country this year, and shifting views in the key swing state are one telling sign.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s current attorney general, has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and even joined a group of fellow Republican attorneys general in filing a brief to court in support California’s ban.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor and former national party chairman, applauded the court’s decision and used the opportunity to reaffirm his support for same-sex marriage. But he has said does not plan to overturn the state-level ban as governor, a position that has some LGBT activists criticizing him for his weak support.
McAuliffe criticized Cuccinelli saying, “My opponent has spent his career putting up walls around Virginia and telling gay Virginians that they’re not welcome.”
In Virginia, nearly four in 10 (37%) describe their attitudes toward LGBT people as growing more accepting while just 5% describe it less accepting, the Human Rights Campaign found.
The state has deep geographic divides however. In the relatively more liberal northern areas near Washington, D.C., 68% say they favor same-sex marriage, but in the central parts of the state support is more closely split (53%-42%) and it’s even closer in the eastern coastal areas (51%-47%). In the more conservative western areas of the state, respondents said they opposed legalizing gay marriage, 35%-63%.