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July 17, 2009

 

Most Ohioans favor equality bill, two polls show

Hamden, Connecticut--A new poll shows strong support for the Equal Housing and Employment Non-Discrimination Act now in the Ohio House, and a general trend of Ohio voters toward LGBT equality.

The results echo those of another poll done last winter.

The June Quinnipiac University poll found that 57% of voters support EHEA, with 35% opposing it. When the question was changed slightly to explain that the bill bans discrimination “against gays and lesbians just as the law bans such discrimination based on race, gender, national origin and religion,” support grew to 59%, with 32% against. In both cases, the percentage of undecided voters was 8.

The measure also prohibits discrimination by gender identity. It covers public and private employment, housing and public accommodations.

Quinnipiac, which has become a respected and reliable public researcher, surveyed 1,259 Ohio voters between June 26 and July 1 on LGBT equality, among other statewide issues. It has a margin of error of ±2.8 percent.

When asked if EHEA would create “special rights” for gays and lesbians, voters said “No” 57 to 33 percent with 10 percent undecided, casting doubt on the viability of a top anti-gay talking point.

Fifty-nine percent of those polled said they have a close friend or relative who is gay or lesbian.

Quinnipiac also found that Ohioans’ support for marriage equality is growing, and that the growth seems to come from those previously undecided.

Between the summers of 2007 and 2009, marriage support increased from 23 to 28 percent. Those who favor civil unions remained at 29 percent, and those who want no legal recognition for same-sex couples tied at 36 and 37 percent respectively. The undecided dropped from 11 percent two years ago to 8 percent.

The idea that same-sex marriage is a “threat to traditional marriage between a man and woman” is fading, the poll showed: 59% rejected it.

But 41 percent of Ohioans believe that being gay or lesbian is a choice, and 50% think society is paying too much attention to the needs of lesbians and gays.

Of Quinnipiac’s 48 questions, ten dealt specifically with LGBT equality. The others covered Gov. Ted Strickland’s popularity, compared him to possible opponents, and asked about slot machines at racetracks.

The survey also found that age, political party, religion, gender and education are factors in attitudes about LGBT equality.

Democrats and independents are significantly more LGBT equality affirming than Republicans in nearly all categories. Age is also a factor: 18-34-year-olds are more supportive of LGBT equality than those over 55.

Women view their LGBT neighbors slightly more favorably than men.

A college degree increases one’s favorability toward LGBT equality consistently by 8 to 12 points, but income levels produced little differences.

Consistently, Quinnipiac found that respondents identified as white evangelical Christians are the most hostile to LGBT equality by 10 to 20 points, compared to Catholics and those affiliated with mainline Protestant denominations.

Earlier poll showed 71% support

Many of Quinnipiac’s findings track those from a poll commissioned by the Equality Ohio Education Fund last winter.

That poll, conducted by Glegariff Group, surveyed 600 Ohio voters between February 5-7 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The published results of Equality Ohio’s poll, which was more narrow in scope that the Quinnipiac one, show a little more support for EHEA. They  match the university’s findings of a general trend toward LGBT support, compared to 2006.

Equality Ohio’s poll showed general support for EHEA at 71 percent, up from 68 percent in 2006.

Differences between the two can be accounted for by the margins of error, and that the two polls asked the questions differently.

Equality Ohio asked if voters would be more or less likely to vote for a legislator who voted for EHEA. Of those, 43 percent said they would be more likely, 23 percent said they would be less likely and 26 percent said it made no difference. These findings show a 3 percent change in favor of legislators who support EHEA over those of 2006.

The February poll also shows Ohioans trending toward LGBT equality in adoption rights and employment benefits.

Both polls strongly suggest that a vote for EHEA is a safe vote for all legislators except for a few in the most socially conservative districts, as described by Qinnipiac’s findings.

“In general, all polling is showing that Ohio is changing,” said Equality Ohio director Lynne Bowman. “It’s a matter of time.”

“Since 2004,” Bowman said, “the work done by LGBT people and allies to educate their families, co-workers and friends is making a difference.”

EHEA, also known as H.B. 176, passed the House State Government Committee on June 17 and is awaiting consideration by the full chamber.

Bowman said she has commitments from House leadership that the bill will be voted on soon after lawmakers return from summer recess in September or October.

“We can’t be lulled into thinking that opponents of the bill will be taking the summer off,” Bowman said. “We need to keep the pressure on, too.”

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