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August 30, 2004

Orange County Residents' Opinions

Orange County Residents’ Opinions On:
• Same-Sex Marriage
• Direction of the Country
• Presidential Preferences

Same-Sex Marriage

The issue of same-sex marriage has arisen:
• Nationally through President Bush’s support of a Constitutional amendment to ban such unions,
• Locally in the case of various municipalities around the country granting same-sex marriage licenses,
• Statewide in California
  - through the passage of Proposition 22 in 2003 (which prohibited same-sex marriage), and,
  - in the recent decision by California’s Supreme Court to invalidate same-sex marriage licenses issued by the city of San Francisco.

The Center for Public Policy asked Orange County respondents two questions on this issue:
• Whether they would approve or disapprove of passing a law in California to permit same-sex marriage
• Whether they would favor or oppose amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.

On the matter of passing a law to permit same-sex marriage (Table 1), Orange County respondents’ views generally parallel those of the state as a whole. Both samples expressed disapproval by about a 10 percent margin. Orange County respondents, however, are twice as likely as statewide respondents to indicate that they don’t know or have no opinion.

Table 1
Approval/Disapproval of Passing a Law in California
to Permit Same-Sex Marriage

Orange County
No Opionion/Don't Know

When the issue is defined as amending the U.S. Constitution (Table 2), Orange County respondents, once again, parallel statewide results in opposing such an amendment, with fairly equal proportions both statewide and locally saying they don’t know.

Thus, while the general trend is for respondents to oppose actively permitting gay marriage as a matter of law, there is also opposition to enshrining a ban on such unions by amending the Constitution.

Table 2
Favor or Oppose a Constitutional Amendment
to Prohibit Same-Sex Marriage

Orange County
No Opionion/Don't Know

For both these issues among Orange County respondents, democrats differ in statistically significant ways from republicans, with the latter much more likely to support amending the Constitution and to oppose making same-sex marriage legal.

Male and female respondents in Orange County do not differ significantly from one another on these issues, nor does age make a significant difference among Orange County respondents.

Comments on the Findings:
“Orange County residents and Californians are very similar in their views on gay marriage. They simultaneously tend to oppose permitting gay marriage, but also tend to oppose amending the federal Constitution to prohibit it. Some of this is probably attributable to respondents’ being cautious about amending the Constitution, which has been amended only 27 times in over 200 years and is very hard to do. The long-term trend in public opinion nationally is that there is decreasing hostility and opposition expressed toward homosexuals and homosexual activity. Yet, at the same time, there is not active support of the idea of same-sex marriage. Our county results seem to indicate that the public is searching for some sort of imperfect compromise position in dealing with the legal aspects of homosexuality as it relates to marriage.”

--Phil Gianos, professor of political science, Cal State Fullerton

Sources: Orange County data from July/August CSUF/Orange County Business Council survey; California data from May 2004 Field survey.

Questions asked for both surveys:
• Would you approve or disapprove of passing a law in California that would permit gay and lesbians to marry members of their own sex and have regular marriage laws apply to them?
• Do you favor or oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus barring marriage between gay and lesbian couples?

The Direction of the Country and
Presidential Preference

For the first time in our surveys, we asked Orange County respondents how they felt about the overall direction of the United States. As Table 3 shows, Orange County residents are considerably more pleased about the direction of the country than a national sample that was drawn at the same time indicates. Republicans are much more likely than democrats to say the country is headed in the right direction, as are those who support President Bush over John Kerry.

Table 3
Percentage Who Responded That the United States
Is Going in the “Right Direction”

Orange County Respondents
(CSUF/OCBC Survey, July/August 2004)         59

National Respondents
(NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, July 2004))       36

We also asked our respondents about their preferences in the presidential race. As Table 4 indicates, George Bush enjoys an overall lead over John Kerry in Orange County. Ralph Nader’s candidacy plays slightly better in Orange County than it does nationally, though it now appears that he will not be on the November ballot in California

Table 4
Presidential Preferences Among Likely Voters

O.C. Respondents
(CSUF/OCBC Survey)
California Residents
(Field Poll, August 2004)
National Respondents
(Time magazine poll, August 2004)

(Numbers don't always add to 100 because of rounding error.)

Comments on the Findings:
“In a traditionally republican county, George Bush may be underperforming somewhat. The gap between the ‘right direction’ numbers and the level of support for Bush suggests that his support may not be fully mobilized, which might conceivably lead to lower turnout among republicans. That could be a problem for republican candidates running for other so-called ‘down-ballot offices,’ such as the U.S. Senate and state legislative races.”
--Stephen Stambough, assistant professor of political science, CSUF (Phone: 657-278-6848)

“As one would expect, George Bush does well in Orange County among likely voters, even while California as a whole seems a fairly safe state for Kerry and the national race remains close and volatile at the margins, with more important events to come. We have the Republican Convention, the forthcoming debates and increasing voter focus as election day approaches. Nationally, the election is winnable for either Bush or Kerry, but not so in Orange County, where the song remains the same.”
--Phil Gianos, professor of political science, Cal State Fullerton

Questions asked:
• Now, how about the United States as a whole? Do you think that things in the U.S. are generally going in the right direction or are they generally off on the wrong track?
• If the 2004 election for United States president were held today and the following were candidates, for whom would you vote? Would you say Democrat John Kerry, Republican George W. Bush, third-party candidate Ralph Nader, or would you vote for another candidate? [names were rotated]
1. Kerry
2. Bush
3. Nader
4. Another candidate

Technical Information on the Survey

The current survey was conducted for the CSUF Center for Public Policy / Orange County Business Council team by the Social Science Research Center at California State University, Fullerton (SSRC). The SSRC director is Gregory Robinson.

Telephone interviews were conducted utilizing Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) equipment and software. The CATI system is a sophisticated information gathering protocol that contributes to the accuracy of data and to preserving the random nature of the sample.

A draft survey instrument was provided by the Center for Public Policy and refined by the Social Science Research Center for comprehensiveness, flow, length and factors that influence respondent cooperation and interest. Sample design and technical assistance with data analysis was provided by the SSRC.

The survey of Orange County residents took place between July 22 and Aug. 5, 2004. Five hundred and seventy-nine (579) randomly selected households are represented in the data. Interviews were conducted in English only. Calculated conservatively, the confidence interval for findings noted is plus / minus 4.16 per cent. Confidence intervals around subgroups within the sample are broader.