Nearly 70 Percent of State Voters Support Legal Recognition
Of Same-Sex Relationships, Deliberative Poll Says
PITTSBURGH—Nearly 70 percent of Pennsylvania voters who participated in a statewide Deliberative Poll® support the legal recognition of same-sex relationships, either through marriage or civil unions. The poll was conducted Sept. 27 at Carnegie Mellon University and three other higher education institutions across the state.
These poll results are particularly enlightening because they represent opinions formed when people have had time to consider and discuss an issue — in this case, the proposed Marriage Protection Amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution — among themselves and with experts, rather than through the isolated responses typically solicited by traditional public opinion polls.
"Participating in a deliberative poll gives people an opportunity to reach beyond the divisive rhetoric that generally surrounds these sorts of contentious issues," said Robert Cavalier, a co-director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy (SPPDD), a co-sponsor of the event. "The insights that people gain from their discussions are tremendously valuable in shaping a thoughtful, informed opinion."
To help formulate their positions on the issues, the poll respondents read background materials exploring various aspects of the same-sex marriage issue prior to attending the event. They then gathered in small, moderated group sessions and later posed questions generated in those groups to a panel of experts. At the end of the day, participants filled out a detailed survey which became the basis for the results of the poll.
In addition to Carnegie Mellon, the other sites included Slippery Rock University, Shippensburg University and Community College of Philadelphia. Those sites were selected to represent both urban and rural voters from various geographic areas in the state. A total of approximately 250 individuals randomly selected from voter registration records of the sites' surrounding counties participated.
In other survey results, more than 80 percent of the poll participants felt that the same-sex marriage debate is either very or somewhat important for Pennsylvania and the nation as well.
The full survey consisted of 14 questions, and its complete data will be available by early October on the SPPDD Web site: http://caae.phil.cmu.edu/caae/dp/.