Field Poll finds majority of state's voters approve of same-sex unions

The influx of young, hip voters who accept social diversity accounts for a shift in California voter sentiment favoring gay marriage for the first time in three decades, a local political analyst said Wednesday.

"It's a generational change," said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University associate professor of political science.

And it sets California apart from most of the country, where firm lines have been drawn against same-sex marriages, unions and partnerships in all but 10 states.

California is "dramatically different" on the issue, McCuan said.

A Field Poll finding that Californians approve of same-sex marriage by a 51 percent to 42 percent margin confirms a shift that McCuan said has been growing since 2000, when state voters approved Proposition 22, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, by a 61 percent majority.

The state Supreme Court struck down the proposition two weeks ago, but the issue remains in flux with a proposed state constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage expected to qualify for the November ballot.

The Field Poll results showed the amendment, which needs only majority approval, will fail in California, McCuan said, but the provocative issue could help Republicans stave off a Democratic landslide in November.

Not so, said Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and former Republican Party policy analyst.

"These (poll) numbers might be soft," Pitney said, contending respondents to such a sensitive issue as gay marriage "may give the response they feel is socially acceptable."

The Field Poll has been tracking the same-sex marriage issue for 30 years, but its latest finding conflict with a Los Angeles Times/KTLA survey released Friday that found 54 percent of registered voters would support the November ballot measure.

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