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Ohio Voters Overwhelmingly Support Workplace Nondiscrimination Laws for Gay and Lesbian People, Incorrectly Believe Laws Already Exist

Slim Majority Oppose Amending Constitution to Allow Same-Sex Couples to Marry

WASHINGTON – Ohio voters overwhelmingly support employment nondiscrimination laws protecting gays and lesbians; at the same time, a slim majority oppose amending the Ohio Constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry legally, a new survey finds. Conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, the survey finds that nearly 7-in-10 (68 percent) Ohio voters favor laws protecting gay and lesbian people from job discrimination, compared to one-quarter (25 percent) who oppose such a policy. At least 8-in-10 Ohio voters incorrectly think it is currently illegal under Ohio law (84 percent) and under federal law (80 percent) to fire or refuse to hire someone because he or she is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

“Laws that protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace have overwhelming support among Ohio voters, including majority support across party lines and from every major religious group in the state,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “It is also striking that eight-in-ten Ohio voters believe, incorrectly, that nondiscrimination laws protecting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender already exist as the law of the land at both the state and federal levels.

The survey also finds that a slim majority (51 percent) of Ohio voters say they would oppose a ballot measure to amend Ohio’s Constitution to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. Less than half (45 percent) of Ohio voters report that they would support the measure. If the election were held today, six-in-ten (61 percent) Ohio Democratic voters would support amending Ohio’s constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry legally, while independents are equally divided (47 percent favor, 48 percent oppose), and Ohio Republican voters are strongly opposed (24 percent favor, 73 percent oppose).

“Ohio appears not quite ready to support a same-sex marriage amendment to the Ohio Constitution,” said Dr. Paul Djupe, associate professor of political science at Denison University, in Granville, Ohio. “Support is significantly below majority in key regions of the state, and key groups that solidly support same-sex marriage nationally, such as Catholics, remain divided in Ohio.”

The strongest support for a constitutional amendment to allow same-sex couples to marry legally exists in the Cleveland area in the northeast (51 percent favor, 43 percent oppose) and the Columbus area in central Ohio (50 percent favor, 46 percent oppose). Majorities of Ohio voters in all other regions of the state oppose a constitutional amendment to allow same-sex couples to marry legally: the Cincinnati area of southwestern Ohio (44 percent favor, 53 percent oppose), rural eastern Ohio (43 percent favor, 55 percent oppose), and the Toledo area of northwestern Ohio (36 percent favor, 57 percent oppose).

Seven-in-ten (70 percent) religiously unaffiliated voters support amending the constitution to allow same-sex marriage, but there is no major religious group in which a majority of voters support amending Ohio’s constitution. White mainline Protestants (45 percent favor, 50 percent oppose) and Catholics (46 percent favor, 51 percent oppose) are closely divided, but with a plurality or slim majority voicing opposition. A majority (53 percent) of minority Protestant voters and three-quarters (75 percent) of white evangelical Protestant voters oppose amending the state constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Additional information including additional demographic analysis, such as generational divides, as well as the differences in enthusiasm between supporters and opponents of a constitutional amendment, is available here.

Among the findings:

When asked a binary favor/oppose question, Ohio voters are evenly divided on same-sex marriage: 47 percent of Ohio voters favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to an equal number (47 percent) who are opposed. Support for same-sex marriage falls when voters are offered the option of civil unions. When presented a three-way question, 41 percent of Ohio voters support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while 23 percent say same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not marry, and 30 percent say there should be no legal recognition of a same-sex couple’s relationship.

Ohio voters oppose taking away collective bargaining rights for public unions. Fewer than 3-in-10 (28 percent) Ohio voters say they would support a law in their state taking away some collective bargaining rights for most public employee unions, including state teachers unions. More than 6-in-10 (62 percent) voters report that they oppose such a law.

Ohio voters support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. More than 6-in-10 (61 percent) Ohio voters support allowing immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally an opportunity to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements. Roughly 1-in-10 (12 percent) say immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be allowed to become permanent residents but not citizens, while about 1-in-4 (23 percent) say that these immigrants should be identified and deported.

The survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted between August 8, 2013 and August 15, 2013, among a random sample of 1,001 adults, including 883 registered voters, 18 years of age or older currently living in the state of Ohio (401 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The survey was made possible through generous funding from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/‐ 3.7 percentage points, and the margin of error for the subsample of registered voters is +/- 3.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval.

Read the full report.

Read the topline questionnaire, including the survey methodology.

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