POLL: Support for Civil Unions Rises, Yet Sharp Divisions Remain

Fifty-five percent believe gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions.

ByABC News
November 7, 2007, 6:03 PM

Nov. 8, 2007— -- A record number of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll support civil unions for gay couples, and most continue to favor legal abortion -- while behind those majority views sharp political and ideological divisions rage on.

Overall, 55 percent favor allowing homosexual couples to form legally recognized civil unions, giving them the same rights as married couples in areas such as health insurance, inheritance and pension coverage. That's up from 45 percent in an ABC/Post poll in 2006; the previous high was 51 percent in 2004.

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's support for gay civil unions (and legal abortion) has been disconcerting to core groups within his party. Conservative Republicans and evangelical white Protestants oppose civil unions by more than 2-1, and Republicans overall oppose them by 58-39 percent. Yet some are willing to overlook the issue, notably televangelist Pat Robertson, who endorsed Giuliani yesterday.

Similarly, while 55 percent of Americans support legal abortion -- steady the last five years, and almost exactly the 12-year average in ABC/Post polls -- that ranges from 78 percent of liberal Democrats to a low of 31 percent of conservative Republicans.

There are differences among other groups. On civil unions, support peaks among adults under age 30, and tanks among seniors. It's highest in the East and West, notably lower in the Midwest and South. Whites overall are more apt than blacks to support gay civil unions, and the idea wins more support among women (59 percent) than men (51 percent, and 47 percent among married men).

Support for legal abortion, by contrast, is identical among men and women, and also among blacks and whites. But legal abortion creates an especially stark dividing line between evangelical white Protestants (63 percent oppose it) and their nonevangelical counterparts, among whom 65 percent support it. Legal abortion also is supported by 53 percent of white Catholics.

IMMIGRATION -- On another much-debated issue, immigration, a bare majority, 51 percent, supports a program offering a path to permanent status to illegal immigrants; 44 percent oppose it. (Support for this kind of program goes higher in polls that propose deportation as the only alternative.)