Hopeful signs for gay marriage activists at the ballot box

Where the four battles over gay marriage stand, going into Election Day [UPDATED]

Published November 5, 2012 10:43PM (EST)

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On Tuesday, voters in four states have the chance to give gay marriage supporters their first definitive victory at the ballot box.

Maryland, Washington and Maine will ask voters to decide whether to legalize gay marriage in their states. In Minnesota, the question is whether to implement a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. So far, marriage equality advocates have had no success getting voters to support them at the ballot box. There are some hopeful signs with the latest batch of polls on each measure, but unfortunately for pro-gay marriage groups, the polls have had a tendency to overestimate support for gay marriage leading up to the vote, usually by about 7 points. As the New York Times explained, "Some experts caution that they may be misleading anyway as voters may be hesitant to voice their opposition to the rights of others, with the vote against legalization often undercounted in polls."

Regardless, here's how things are looking in each state going into Election Day:

  • Maryland: Maryland's polling is pretty much deadlocked. According to a recent Baltimore Sun poll, 46 percent of likely voters said they would vote to make same-sex marriage legal in November, while 47 percent said they would vote against it. A poll from a month earlier had support for gay marriage leading by a 10-point margin, at 49-39 percent. The shift is most likely the result of black voters who initially supported it or were undecided, but flipped their vote. Separately, a Washington Post poll from a few weeks ago also showed support for the measure, 52-43 percent.
  • Maine: The latest polling from Maine shows strong support for legalizing gay marriage. One survey from over the weekend by Critical Insights, an in-state polling outfit, shows support for the referendum leading 55-42 percent, though opposition has increased by 7 points since the last poll in June. A final poll from PPP, which leans Democratic, also finds support for the referendum leading by a margin of 52-45.
  • Washington: The outlook appears favorable for gay marriage in Washington. One recent University of Washington poll shows 57.9 percent of voters supporting the measure, with 36.9 percent opposed. PPP's poll had a narrower gap with supporters ahead 52-42.
  • Minnesota: Minnesota is the only state where voters will decide whether or not to implement a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The polls are a bit mixed, though in recent weeks supporters of gay marriage have made gains. SurveyUSA's weekly tracking poll of the amendment showed that more people oppose the ban than support it for the first time this week, though by the small margin of  48-47 percent. Last week's poll showed the reverse, and in weeks prior there was a much larger margin of voters who were in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage.  The Dem-leaning PPP put out a poll this weekend with much more optimistic results for gay marriage backers, with 52 percent of voters saying they'll oppose the ban, and 45 percent saying they'll support it.

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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2012 Elections Gay Marriage Maine Minnesota National Organization For Marriage Washington