Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New Poll Finds that More Americans Oppose DOMA, Support Equal Treatment Under the Law
Press Release

RELEASE: New Poll Finds that More Americans Oppose DOMA, Support Equal Treatment Under the Law

To download the polling memo, click here
View the infographic here

Washington, D.C. — Today, in advance of the Perry and Windsor Supreme Court hearings next month, the Center for American Progress and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders released the results of a national voter survey showing an increase in public opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, as a clear case of discrimination and support for equal treatment for legally married same-sex couples under federal law—even if the individual polled is generally opposed to marriage equality.

“When the Defense of Marriage act was enacted into law in 1996, no one envisioned that nine states would have legalized, or be in the process of legalizing, marriage equality for same-sex couples. Today the law deprives thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples the federal benefits and protections that are afforded to all other married people,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. “This poll confirms that a majority of Americans disagree with the inherent unfairness in giving only some legally married couples the benefits that go hand in hand with these unions.”

The poll, conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research and Voter Consumer Research, finds that:

  • Americans believe DOMA is discrimination, plain and simple. Sixty-two percent of registered voters agreed that “it is discrimination for the federal government to deny marriage protections and benefits to legally married same-sex couples.”
  • People can oppose Section 3 of DOMA while not necessarily supporting same-sex marriage. A number of Americans believe that DOMA is bad policy and that same-sex couples deserve equal treatment from the federal government, even if they don’t believe that their state should extend the rights of marriage to those couples.
  • Notably, support for the repeal of DOMA is now stronger among people of color than it is among whites. Sixty-five percent of black people and 61 percent of Hispanic people said that they opposed Section 3 of DOMA, compared to a still high 57 percent of white people. This is a marked reversal from years prior, when polls found black and Hispanic support for the repeal of DOMA to be lower than white support.
  • Americans in strong majorities believe that same-sex couples should not be denied the federal benefits and protections of marriage. More than 70 percent of respondents believe that all couples should have hospital visitation rights, survivor benefits if a spouse is killed in the line of duty, and family and medical leave.

“In 2013 registered voters have reached a tipping point, in which a majority (52 percent) favors allowing marriage for same-sex couples. However, an even larger portion—almost 6 in 10 respondents (59 percent)—oppose DOMA’s requirement that the federal government discriminate against those same-six couples who are legally married by denying their marriage’s recognition,” said Amy Simon, a partner at Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, who fielded the poll.

The findings from this poll come just one month ahead of oral arguments in two cases that address marriage equality for same-sex couples. First, the Supreme Court will address the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA in United States v. Windsor. Second, the Supreme Court will address the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in Hollingsworth v. Perry. Proposition 8 was the 2008 voter initiative that stripped same-sex couples in California of the right to marry.

“With each passing day, more and more Americans are learning how DOMA denies important marital protections and heaps disrespect on married same-sex couples across the country – and they’re saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ It’s not surprising that a majority of this country now believes that loving, committed couples in legal marriages should be treated fairly under federal law. It’s time for our laws to catch up with where public opinion is on abolishing DOMA,” said Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

To download the polling memo, click here
View the infographic here

To speak with CAP experts, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or [email protected].


Poll methodology

These findings are based on a live interviewer telephone survey conducted January 23–27, 2013 among 802 registered voters nationwide. The sample includes cell phones and landlines. Overall results have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

About Goodwin Simon Strategic Research

Goodwin Simon Strategic Research is an independent opinion research firm with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Together, Partners Paul Goodwin and Amy Simon bring more than 30 years of experience in polling, social and political marketing, policy analysis, program evaluation, and communications for clients in the political, public, and private sectors.

About Voter Consumer Research

Voter Consumer Research provides public-opinion research to clients in the issues management and political marketplace. Its clients include corporations, associations, political candidates, I&R campaigns, IE campaigns and Republican Party committees.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression. GLAD’s successful 2003 case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health made Massachusetts the first state in the U.S. where same-sex couples could legally marry.