Annual Doyle survey shows support for same-sex marriage

03/30/09 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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AP Photo/T. Talbot
(Host) For the second year in a row, Senator Bill Doyle's Town Meeting Day Survey shows majority support for same-sex marriage.

The survey also reveals that, for the first time, Governor Jim Douglas's negatives are higher than his positives.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) It's clear from the survey results that people have a definite opinion on same sex marriage - very few are undecided.

These results aren't scientific - they represent the opinions of roughly 13 thousand people who took the time to fill them out.

In 2007, same sex marriage was opposed by a 4 point margin, but in the last two years, there's been a 21 point shift on this issue.  This year it was supported by a margin of 55 to 38%.

Senator Doyle thinks there are some reasons why this is happening:

(Doyle) "Times have changed and lifestyles have changed... there were those who really felt that civil unions would adversely affect the institution of marriage and after 9 years it hasn't been the case." 

Middlebury College political science professor emeritus Eric Davis says it's noteworthy that the results of 2009 essentially match those from 2008 - a year when Vermont held a very competitive Democratic presidential primary on Town Meeting Day:

(Davis) "So you might actually have a less liberal less progressive electorate who went to the polls on Town Meeting this year that are saying that they   support same sex marriage by about the same percentage as the people who answered senator Doyle's questionnaire last year."

The 2009 results also reflect a changing attitude concerning Governor Jim Douglas.

In 2006, 50% of respondents said they thought the governor was doing a good job compared to 30% who didn't.  This year, 39% think he's a doing a good while 44 % don't. Senator Doyle:

(Doyle) "There's so much publicity about cuts and people losing jobs and they don't blame an individual legislator they blame the governor who's making the proposal so the governor gets high marks in good times and he gets low marks in times that are not so good."

Professor Davis thinks these numbers and other factors indicate that Douglas could have a tough re-election campaign in 2010:

(Davis) "The longer the governor is in office the more people there are who are dissatisfied with one or more of his decisions. Secondly, Democratic candidates seem to be getting organized for the 2010 race earlier than was the case last year... and finally, any incumbent executive during difficult economic times has more problems getting re-elected."

The Doyle survey also shows strong support for several transportation issues that will be debated on the House floor this week.

People participating in the survey think drivers should be prohibited from using cell phones, they back a primary enforcement seat belt law and they support raising the gas tax to fix roads and bridges throughout the state.

For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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