A new national poll indicates that half of the public supports legalizing gay marriage.
According to a Gallup survey released Tuesday, 50 percent of Americans say that same-sex marriages should be recognized as legal, with 48 percent saying such marriages should not be legal.
The 50 percent support for same sex marriages is down slightly from 53 percent from Gallup polling last year, which was the first year dating to 1996 that a majority supported legalizing same sex marriages.
The poll's release comes two days after Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he was "absolutely comfortable" with the idea of same-gender unions.
The vice president added, however, that it's the president, not him, who sets the administration's policy.
President Barack Obama, who once opposed same-sex marriage, says he supports civil unions for same sex couples, and has taken the official position that his views on the issue are "evolving."
Forty-seven percent of people questioned in a Pew Research Center poll conducted last month said they favored allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, with 43 percent opposed. An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in March indicated that 52 percent supported legal same sex marriages, with 43 percent opposed. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll also conducted in March indicated 49 percent in support of legal same sex marriage and 40 percent opposed. And according to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted last autumn, 53 percent backed legalized same sex marriages, with 46 percent opposed.
All of these surveys indicated building support for legal same sex marriages over the past decade.
Like the other polls, the new Gallup survey indicates a partisan divide on the issue, with almost two-thirds of Democrats and 57 percent of independents but just 22 percent of Republicans supporting legalizing same-sex marriages.
According to the Gallup poll, there's also a divide along religious lines, with Catholics, by a 51 percent - 47 percent margin, in support of legal same sex marriages but Protestants, by a 59 percent -38 percent margin, opposed. The survey also indicates that the more frequently a person attends religious services, the less likely that person is to support legalizing same sex marriages.
The Gallup poll was conducted May 3-6, with 1,024 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.