A plurality of Americans said the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing gay and lesbian marriages, is a bad law, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. The survey was conducted in the days following the Supreme Court's announcement that it would hear two high-profile cases on same-sex marriage, one involving DOMA and the other addressing California's Proposition 8.
According to the poll, 43 percent of Americans labeled DOMA a bad law, while only 34 percent considered it a good law. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they were not sure.
Overall, 46 percent of respondents favored legal marriage for gay and lesbian couples, and 42 percent were opposed -- a split echoing other polls that have found the country still divided on the issue but with support for gay marriage beginning to outpace opposition. The YouGov survey found an equal divide between those who strongly favored and those who strongly opposed gay marriage, with each "strong" position drawing 27 percent of respondents.
Younger adults, who many polls have shown are the most likely to support same-sex marriage, were also the most likely to say that DOMA is a bad law in the new survey. Fifty-five percent of respondents age 18-29, but only 30 percent of respondent age 65 and over, called DOMA a bad law, with other age groups falling in between. Women were also much more likely than men to favor legal gay marriage and less likely to say that DOMA is a good law.
Opinion on both gay marriage generally and DOMA in particular showed a sharp partisan divide, with Democrats favoring gay marriage and saying DOMA is a bad law and Republicans taking the opposite positions. Independents were more likely to favor than oppose gay marriage (47 percent to 39 percent) and more likely to call DOMA a bad law than a good law (45 percent to 29 percent).
Respondents were divided over whether the legality of same-sex marriage should be determined by the federal government or the states, though slightly more said it should be left to the states to decide (41 percent to 37 percent).
A majority of those who strongly favored same-sex marriage said that the federal government should determine whether gay and lesbian couples can marry -- this despite the fact that many recent advances for same-sex marriage have taken place on the state level and most supporters of gay marriage reject DOMA, a federal measure, as bad law. Similarly, respondents who opposed gay marriage tended to support DOMA but still think that marriage law should be determined by the states.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Dec. 7-9 among 1,000 U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, though that inherent variation does not take into account other potential sources of error, including statistical bias in the sample.