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Is Obama's gay marriage stance all about suburban voters?


The American electorate, like President Obama, is "evolving" on gay marriage. In fact, there's been a sea change among Americans when it comes to the subject across demographic groups.

Women, African Americans, independents, and suburban voters have all moved more in favor of same-sex marriage just over the last two-and-a-half years, according to the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll.

In the March poll, overall, Americans favored same-sex marriage by a 49-40% margin. That's a reversal from October 2009, when it was 41% favor, 49% oppose.

Among women, there was a 14-point shift, from 44%/47% to 51%/39%. Among black voters -- the largest shift -- from 32%/53% to 50%/41%. (That could be attributed to the president's warming on the issue.) Both constituencies have also moved more strongly in Obama's favor.

But among independents and especially suburban voters, the numbers are tighter. In March 2012, independents said they favored gay marriage by 46%/37%, a big reversal from 37%/50% in 2009.

Among suburban voters, a key electoral group, it was just a narrow plurality in favor, 45%/43%, in March. Granted, that's a 19-point shift from 37% favor, 54% opposed. But it's also a group Obama won in 2008 (50%-48%), which in the same March poll said it preferred Romney (49%-43%). And that's despite Obama leading overall in the poll (50%-44%).

People still opposed, include rural voters and those identifying as Republicans.

In other words, Obama's coalition of Democrats, black voters, women, Hispanics and urban voters (see below) are all in tact and in favor of gay marriage. But swing voters, especially suburban voters are still split -- as is Obama, apparently.

Same-sex marriage - Favor/Oppose
March 2012

All 49/40
Men 47/41
Women 51/39
White 48/42
Black 50/41
Hispanic 55/30
Suburban 45/43
Urban 60/33
Rural 31/58
Independent 46/37
Dem 67/24
GOP 31/62

Same-sex marriage - Favor/Oppose
Oct. 2009

All 41/49
Men 36/52
Women 44/47
White 40/50
Black 32/53
Hispanic 45/40
Suburban 37/54
Urban 48/40
Rural 39/52
Independent 37/50
Dem 55/35
GOP 22/70