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Poll: Latinos move in favor of gay marriage

More Hispanics than ever say that they are in favor of gay marriage, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo oversample of 300 Latino voters.

By a 49 percent to 43 percent margin, Latinos say they are in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. That’s the widest margin for Hispanics in the NBC/WSJ poll’s history, but it lags behind other traditionally Democratic-voting pillars.

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Views on gay marriage have evolved rapidly since 2004, but not among Hispanics. All respondents said they supported same-sex marriage by a 53 percent to 42 percent margin, a 43-point turnabout from 2004 and up 2 points from this past December.

But Hispanics, along with rural voters, have been either consistent with their opinion, or less in favor of gay marriage since George W. Bush’s re-election campaign. This is the first NBC/WSJ poll with as wide a spread. In 2009, Hispanics said they were in favor by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin. In December 2012, they were split, with 46 percent in favor, 47 percent opposed.

Democratic pollster Fred Yang and conservative pollster Bill McInturff join The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd for a "deep dive" look at the latest NBC and Wall Street Journal poll numbers and the cultural divides in America.

A majority of Hispanics –  56 percent  –  believe that there should be a federal standard for marriage. And a solid majority believes that marriage should be defined as a union between one man and one woman – 56 percent to 33 percent. 

This is more conservative than the rest of the country. By a 48 percent to 47 percent margin, among all adults, Americans said there should be a federal amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

This movement toward more Hispanics being in favor of same-sex marriage could be related to the significant uptick in Hispanics who say they know someone who’s gay.

In just a year’s time, there’s been a 22-point shift on the question. In May 2012, a majority – 51 percent – said they didn’t know anyone who was gay or lesbian (versus 46 percent who said they did).

But now, that’s reversed with nearly six-in-10 – 58 percent -- saying they know someone who’s gay.

Just 35 percent of Hispanics said they know a gay couple; 53 percent of all Americans said they do.

Half of Hispanics – 50 percent -- believe that people are born gay, and 29 percent say that individuals chose to be homosexual. That’s almost identical to the views of all Americans.

When Americans hear the phrase “social and cultural issues,” first on the list of what comes to mind is gay marriage or gay rights.

But for Hispanics, it’s very different. “Cultural differences” are listed first, followed by “gay marriage” and then “tolerance.”

That’s noteworthy when trying to understand the differences between Hispanics and the rest of the country on values issues. Yes, Hispanics are more socially conservative on preserving the family unit, abortion, and pay for women in the workplace, but cultural acceptance and immigration are big parts of their values make up. And they agree more with Democrats.

“Their numbers on how they rate the Republican Party are negative,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democrat Peter D. Hart. McInturff added, “It’s clear they’re talking about tolerance of culture that’s very different than white respondents.”

Hispanics, one of the largest-growing groups in the country, do not ideologically fit neatly into either party’s mold, showing themselves to be more socially conservative than the rest of the country, but also more economically liberal.

A majority – 52 percent – of Hispanics believes that promoting greater respect for traditional values is more important than encouraging greater tolerance, which is slightly wider than the rest of the country.

There’s evidence for this in Hispanics views on same-sex marriage, abortion, and even women’s rights. This is likely because of Hispanics’ deeply held religious views with 60 percent identifying as Catholic.

But when asked which party they most agree with on social and cultural issues, Hispanics side with Democrats – 42 percent agree with Democrats’ approach, versus 30 percent who say they disagree with it.

When it comes to Republicans, just 23 percent of Hispanics agree with the GOP, while 45 percent disagree – despite how much more liberal Democrats are on traditional social and cultural values.

That is at least partially because Hispanics trust Democrats more on immigration and issues of cultural tolerance.

In addition, a majority – 50 percent – say that economic and financial pressures are even more serious than a decline in moral values. This is similar among all Americans and is a reversal from 1996 when a majority of Americans thought a decline in moral values was more important than economic pressures.

It’s even more acute for Hispanics. More so than all adults in the wider NBC/WSJ/Telemundo poll, they believe economic pressure to make-ends-meet is higher – 91 percent of Hispanics called that a serious problem versus 84 percent of all Americans.

And Hispanics agree more with Democrats on their approach to who’s looking out for the middle class – 44 percent agree, 31 percent disagree. When it comes to Republicans, just 21 percent agree with the GOP and 54 percent disagree.

The family unit and community are very important to Hispanics. They believe that declines in various social areas are serious problems like divorce (77 percent vs. 65 percent), community and neighborhoods (75 percent vs. 59 percent), and the rise in texting and use of social media (60 percent vs. 43 percent).

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