53 percent of Americans now support gay marriage, poll finds

As the Supreme Court debates the constitutionality of gay marriage issues and politician after politician comes out in support of same-sex marriage, a new poll (pdf) finds that a majority of Americans—53 percent—believe same sex couples should be able to marry and increasing numbers say they know someone who is gay.

Forty-two percent of respondents in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said they oppose gay marriage, and support and opposition largely broke along partisan lines, according to NBC's analysis. Some 73 percent of Democrats said they support same-sex nuptials, while 66 percent of Republicans were opposed. Fifty-four percent of independents were in support.

Seventy-nine percent of adults surveyed said they know or work with someone who is gay or lesbian—a sharp increase from December poll figures that showed 65 percent of respondents knew someone who was gay or lesbian.

But the adults surveyed said that a personal connection doesn't influence their viewpoint. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed who said they know someone who was gay or lesbian said it doesn't influence their support or opposition to gay marriage. Fifteen percent said it did make them more likely to support it, and 4 percent said it made them less likely to support it.

The poll was somewhat split on who should have the final word on the issue. Sixty-three percent of respondents said the federal government should recognize marriages in states where it is legalized (34 percent opposed that prospect). And 56 percent of those surveyed think that issue of permitting gay marriage should be left to the federal government.

Other social issues were tackled in the April 5-8 survey, including:

-Abortion: A majority—52 percent—said it should be illegal either most or all the time, while 45 percent said it should be legal most or all the time.

-Guns: 55 percent said laws related to the sale of firearms should be more strict; 34 percent disagree.

-Sequester: A majority, 58 percent, said the across-the-board federal spending cuts impact them "not much"; 6 percent said "not at all"; 17 percent said "just some"; 7 percent said "quite a bit"; and 9 percent said "a great deal."