Same-sex marriage stance hurts Portman

The Columbus Dispatch – April 20, 2013

The trend in Ohio and across the country already was moving in one direction on gay marriage.

What wasn’t clear until yesterday is how Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s flip on the issue last month would affect the public’s opinion of him.

Portman’s 40 percent-approval and 31 percent-disapproval numbers in the latest Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey of Ohio voters are a slide for the freshman senator from suburban Cincinnati. He announced his support for gay marriage in March.

The same Quinnipiac poll showed that Ohioans now narrowly support same-sex marriage, 48 to 44 percent. A  Saperstein Poll for The Dispatch last month showed that 54 percent backed a proposed amendment to Ohio’s Constitution to repeal existing law and allow gay marriage.

The approval rating of Portman, who reversed his position because one of his sons is gay, dipped 4 percentage points from a February poll. His disapproval number rose 7 points.

The number of Republicans who disapprove of Portman’s performance as senator jumped by 13 percentage points; 41 percent of GOP voters polled said they think less favorably of him because of his support for gay marriage.

It’s not all bad news for Portman. His approval among independents ticked up 4 percentage points, to 47 percent, and his disapproval fell dramatically, from 35 percent to 23 percent.

“It’s probably not surprising that his numbers are down a bit, but the question is, will it make a difference three years from now when he runs for re-election?” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac polling institute.

In a December poll by Quinnipiac, 47 percent of Ohioans opposed gay marriage and 45 percent supported it. Women in Ohio now support gay marriage 52 to 40 percent, while men oppose it 49 to 43 percent.

“Rob’s change of heart was driven by a family issue, and clearly had nothing to do with politics or poll numbers,” a Portman adviser said.

A quick rundown of the poll’s other highlights:

•President Barack Obama’s job approval is underwater at 45 percent, compared with 51 percent disapproval. In December, 54 percent approved of his performance.

•An overwhelming number (80 percent) said they support universal background checks for gun buyers, and 52 percent said they are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who voted for background checks.

•Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown earned a plurality of approval, 47 to 38 percent.

•Ohioans approve of expanding Medicaid by 48 to 43 percent.

The live telephone survey by the Connecticut university of 1,138 registered Ohio voters from April 10 through Monday has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. It included both land lines and cellphones.