COLUMBUS — Underscoring the dispute among gay rights groups over when to ask voters to overturn the 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, a poll released Friday shows Ohioans are still sharply divided on the issue.
The Qunnipiac Poll also showed voters are strongly opposed to the notion that college athletes should be allowed to unionize, a reaction to a recent National Labor Relations Board decision finding that Northwestern University football players who make money for the school may consider joining a union to negotiate their rights.
Exactly half of registered voters say they believe gay couples should be allowed to marry in Ohio while 43 percent oppose it.
Support is the same as shown in a February poll, while opposition has declined slightly from 44 percent, despite recent federal court rulings ordering the state to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere.
“The future of same-sex marriage in Ohio is now before the courts, but if it were up to voters, the issue would be close to a tossup, with support just hitting 50 percent,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut-based university’s poll.
“There is a direct correlation between age and views of gay marriage, and the partisan split is stark with Democrats strongly in favor and Republicans adamantly opposed.”
The poll of 1,174 registered voters was conducted between May 7 and 12. The results on the gay-marriage question were just outside the margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
The march toward a 2014 ballot vote has halted with the focus shifting instead toward 2015 or 2016.
“We’ve said from the beginning that there’s been natural growth in support of marriage equality, and this poll reflects that,” said Michael Premo, executive director of Why Marriage Matters Ohio, an organization that favors a public education campaign leading up to a 2016 vote on overturning the ban.
“Look back at the 2004 vote, and now the majority opinion supports marriage equality,” he said. “But we need to get it up higher than that in order to be successful on the ballot.”
In the meantime, court fights over constitutional bans in Ohio and other states continue, with at least one case likely to eventually work its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Nearly 4 million Ohioans voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman in Ohio,” said Phil Burress, president of the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values that spearheaded the 2004 ban. “We believe the people, who George Washington called the ‘keepers’ of our constitution, deserve to have their voice stand.”
As for the idea of unionizing college athletes, registered voters said “no” to the idea by a margin of 55 percent to 38 percent.
The gap widened from 62 percent to 32 percent when it comes to the idea of paying athletes’ salaries.
“Ohioans may love their Buckeyes, and they have a favorable view of unions, but they don’t think the two should meet,” Mr. Brown said.
“Only Democrats and voters under 35 favor allowing college athletes to unionize. But not even they support the idea of college athletes receiving salaries in addition to the value of their scholarships. A majority think colleges are losing sight of their academic mission with the emphasis on athletics, but don’t expect any empty seats in the Horseshoe in the fall.”
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.