A majority of Americans now believe that government officials who issue marriage licenses should be required to issue them to gay and lesbian couples even if they have religious objections to their marriages, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
Things to know about public opinion on gay marriage from the latest AP-GfK poll:
SHIFTING OPINION ON MARRIAGE LICENSES
Most Americans — 56 percent — now think government officials who issue marriage licenses should be required to issue them to gay and lesbian couples even if they have religious objections to do so, according to the new poll. Just 41 percent say there should be a religious exemption to that requirement. That's a shift since an earlier AP-GfK poll conducted in July. Then, Americans were about evenly split, with 49 percent saying officials with religious objections should be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and 47 percent saying they should be required to issue them.
The July poll was conducted just after the Supreme Court ruled that all states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. In the intervening months, Kim Davis, a county clerk in Rowan County, Ky., became a household name after being jailed for contempt of court over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
BIGGEST MOVEMENT AMONG REPUBLICANS
That shift was especially stark among Republicans. A majority of them —58 percent — still favor religious exemptions for officials issuing marriage licenses, but that's down 14 points since 72 percent said so in July. That shift comes despite no equivalent change in Republicans' opinions on same-sex marriage more generally.
And a majority of moderate to liberal Republicans — 58 percent — now say there should be no exemption, after just 35 percent said so in July. Among conservative Republicans, 68 percent still say religious objectors should be allowed to abstain from issuing licenses to gays and lesbians.
Among Democrats, 73 percent think there should be no religious exemption, a slight uptick since July when 67 percent said so.
SPLIT ON MARRIAGE
Overall, 43 percent of Americans favor and 39 percent oppose legal same-sex marriage. That hasn't shifted since July, just after the Supreme Court's historic ruling. Six in 10 Democrats are in favor, 6 in 10 Republicans are opposed.
Among those who oppose gay marriage, 22 percent still think government officials should have to issue marriage licenses even if they have religious objections.
By comparison, just 12 percent of those who favor gay marriage support a religious exemption to that requirement.
Among those who neither favor nor oppose gay marriage, 57 percent think there should not be a religious exemption.
DIVISION ON MORE GENERAL PRINCIPLE
On a more general level, Americans are slightly more likely to say that it's more important for the government to protect religious liberties than the rights of gays and lesbians when the two come into conflict, 51 percent to 45 percent.
But that, too, is a slight shift since July, when 56 percent said it's more important to protect religious liberties.
In the latest poll, 73 percent of Republicans said protecting religious liberties is more important, while 65 percent of Democrats said it's more important to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online Oct. 15 to Oct. 19, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.