Whether Florida bans gay marriage in its state Constitution could be decided by how much presidential candidate Barack Obama drives turnout among African Americans, according to a new poll underwritten by a trio of news organizations.
Amendment 2 teeters on the edge of passage, with 59 percent of likely voters saying they would support it, results from a St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald statewide poll show. The measure needs 60 percent approval to pass.
Pollsters think voters like Carrie Wynn of Largo will tip the scales in favor of Amendment 2.
Wynn is an African American woman, a registered Democrat, and she voted early, for Obama. She also voted for Amendment 2.
"I don't believe in gay marriage," said Wynn, 71, who participated in the poll of 800 likely voters from Monday through Wednesday. "One man, one woman. That's what I believe in."
Although only 48 percent of Democrats overall favor the amendment, some 69 percent of black voters support it.
"Its promise lies in the fact that you are going to see an increase in turnout among African-American voters," said Kellyanne Conway, president of the Polling Company, which often works for Republican candidates. Her firm conducted the poll with SEA Polling and Strategic Design, a firm that works with Democrats.
The poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, showed the gay marriage ban, which mirrors what is already in state law, has a majority of support across most demographic groups, be it Republicans, independents, blacks, whites, Hispanics, young or old, male or female.
Women supported the measure slightly less than men, 56 percent to 62 percent; though working women like registered nurse Cathie McKenna of Lakeland were even less likely to support it (50 percent).
"I don't think there's any need for it right now," said McKenna, 53. "I don't think government has any business being there."
She fears the amendment could cause medical care and hospital visitation problems for heterosexual couples who aren't legally married. McKenna, who has been married to her husband for 33 years, said she also supports gay marriage.
The strongest support comes from people who attend church frequently, particularly self-described born-again Christians like Branden Grammer, 31, of Port Richey.
"I'm a born again Christian," Grammer said. "That's my belief. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman."
Some 75 percent of Republicans such as Ronald Brackin, 52, of Citrus Park, back the measure; 20 percent oppose it.
Brackin, a meter mechanic, said he's "tired of people shoving the alternative lifestyle down our throats." Adults have the right to make any decision they want about their lifestyle, he said, but allowing gay marriage sends the wrong message to kids.
Cloie Joyce, 76, of Lakeland, a retired widow, admitted some conflicted feelings. But when she voted early, she voted against the amendment.
"That's a really touchy subject," Joyce said. "I'm definitely not gay and I don't plan on being gay. According to the Bible, I don't think it's right. But I have a couple friends who are gay. And I have family that's gay. ... I have never run into a gay person who wasn't a sweet kind of person."
"That's between them and God," she said.
59 Percentage of voters who say they approve amending the Florida Constitution to define marriage as "the legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."
Note: The poll was conducted among 800 voters Oct. 20, 21 and 22. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.