Support for same-sex marriage equality among Illinoisans has grown by 10 points over the last two years, according to a poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
“I think the numbers show striking shifts in public opinion,” said Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago). Harris is a longtime proponent of marriage equality in Illinois and has spearheaded several bills in the legislature to achieve marriage equality rights, including the successful civil unions bill in 2010.
“The data shows that this is not undecided voters making up their minds, but rather previous opponents shifting their positions on long held beliefs,” he said.
The report released Wednesday, titled “The 2012 Simon Poll on Ethics and Reform in Illinois,” asks respondents to choose one of three statements that most accurately describes their their position on the marriage rights of same-sex couples in the state. Now, 43.6 percent of respondents said they favor the idea of gay and lesbian couples legally marrying. In 2010, the same poll reported 33.6 percent of people were in favor.
The report also shows that 31.8 percent of people favor civil unions. However, 20.2 percent said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex couples, a considerable decline from the 26.5 percent who said the same in 2010. And 4.4 percent and six percent of people chose the “Other/Don’t Know” option to describe their position in 2012 and 2010, respectively.
Considering the marriage and civil union numbers together, 75.4 percent of people believe in legal recognition of same-sex couples.
“I think as people learn about the issue they are seeing it as matter of basic fairness,” Harris said. “And as they know more LGBT couples, they understand how important helping and strengthening all families is.”
The Paul Simon poll has been conducted since 2008 and measures a variety of citizen views on issues such as the state budget deficit, state spending and taxation, vote intention and political reform.
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Tony Merevick is the Editor-in-chief and co-founder of Chicago Phoenix.