PHOENIX -- A new statewide survey suggests that if Arizonans were asked about it today, it's more likely that gay couples would be able to marry here.
The poll conducted last month by the Behavior Research Center found 55 percent of the 700 adult heads of household questioned saying they favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. Another 35 percent were opposed with the balance unsure.
Pollster Jim Haynes said Tuesday he found support across most groups. Even among those 55 and older, there was a small plurality who said they would agree.
Only those who identified themselves as conservatives, Republicans or non-Latino minorities were clearly opposed.
But Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said the results are "unreliable," at least in part because there has been a "relentless barrage of media articles for the last three months promoting same-sex marriage." And that, she said, affects what people here think.
"Everywhere you turn, there's a media article or media story in favor of same-sex marriage, proclaiming that our country is turning in favor of same-sex marriage," said Herrod, whose organization spearheaded the successful 2008 ballot measure imposing a state constitutional requirement that marriage is solely between one man and one woman. She also said coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court arguments in March on two cases resulted in numerous articles explaining why gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry.
And there have been a series of articles about state legislatures across the country legalizing same-sex marriage.
"In my view, there hasn't been a strong presence in the media about why marriage matters and why marriage should be between one man and one woman," Herrod said.
But Haynes said her objections are missing the point.
"Certainly, people are influenced by things they hear by news events," he said.
For example, Haynes said news of the elementary school shootings in Connecticut clearly was reflected in public polling on gun regulation and background checks.
"The results reported here are a snapshot of the feeling of the people of Arizona during the time this was in the field," Haynes said.
"Those opinions, obviously, are subject to change based on other stuff that people hear."
Haynes also acknowledged that the survey is not a guarantee that an initiative right now to legalize same-sex weddings would be approved.
He said the survey sample of 700 included just 435 who were registered voters. And the results of any ballot measure, Haynes said, depends heavily on who turns out.
And there are other factors.
"It would be dependent on how it's presented on the ballot and what kind of campaign preceded the vote," he said.
"But I think clearly it's an issue where people's opinions are changing," Haynes continued. "They're morphing over time and, at this stage of the game, at least overall, you have about a 20-point margin in favor."
So far 12 states have legalized gay marriage, the most recent being Minnesota.
Herrod acknowledged she would never have believed in 2008, when Arizonans voted 56-44 to ban same-sex marriages, that nearly a quarter of states would have gay marriage laws half a decade later. But she said that does not necessarily represent a sea-change in public thinking nationwide -- or in Arizona.
"The states that have adopted same-sex marriage law all are liberal states," she said. "You don't see states in the South, Texas, states like Arizona doing this."
The survey has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.