Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed by The New York Times and CBS News since the announcement said they thought that Mr. Obama had made it “mostly for political reasons,” while 24 percent said it was “mostly because he thinks it is right.” Independents were more likely to attribute it to politics, with nearly half of Democrats agreeing.
The results reinforce the concerns of White House aides and Democratic strategists who worried that the sequence of events leading up to the announcement last week made it look calculated rather than principled.
The survey results made it clear that the president was wading into a divisive area of American life, one that may not top the nation’s priority list but still has the potential to hurt him at the margins in elections in November. About 4 in 10, or 38 percent, of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 24 percent favor civil unions short of formal marriage. Thirty-three percent oppose any form of legal recognition. When civil unions are eliminated as an option, opposition to same-sex marriage rises to 51 percent, compared with 42 percent support.
The poll showed that relatively few voters consider same-sex marriage their top issue amid continued economic uncertainty, and more than half said it would make no difference in their choice for president. But among those who said Mr. Obama’s position would influence their vote, more said they would be less likely to vote for him as a result; in a close race, even a small shift in swing states could be costly.