The Post poll found that 64 percent of Maryland voters ages 18 to 39 support Question 6. That drops to 51 percent of those ages 40 to 64, and 40 percent of those 65 and older.
“I don’t really understand what the big deal is about it,” said Christopher Valis, 24, a community college student in Harford County. “It’s a basic civil right, and it really, really bugs me that it’s not already allowed.”
There has also been some movement nationally among African American voters — a trend less evident in the Maryland poll — since Obama’s announcement and the NAACP’s endorsement this year of same-sex marriage.
In a state where African Americans make up a larger percentage of the electorate than anywhere outside the Deep South, both sides in Maryland have been heavily targeting black voters.
In their television ads, proponents have featured black ministers and civil rights leaders, arguing that allowing gay people to wed is the fair thing to do whether one personally approves or not.
Opponents of Question 6 have networked for months through black churches. In a new television ad, they feature Angela McCaskill, the chief diversity officer at Gallaudet University, an African American who was put on administrative leave for signing the petition to put Maryland’s same-sex marriage law on the ballot.
Religion plays a major role in voters’ views on the matter, The Post poll found.
Among opponents of same-sex marriage, two-thirds say their religious beliefs and opinions are the chief influence on their views.
“The Bible says there’s only one marriage, the covenant between a man and a woman,” said Melissa Smith, a 61-year-old retired elementary school principal who lives in Laurel. “They should have their beneficiaries; their families shouldn’t be able to ban them from each other’s deathbeds, but I don’t think they need to be married in order to have that.”
Supporters cite more varied motivations, including personal and educational experiences, and family and friends. Just 9 percent of supporters say religion is the biggest influence on their views.
Josh Levin, the campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said he thinks it is premature to celebrate despite promising poll numbers for his side.
“We’re only at 52 percent, and anyone who thinks we’re going to be up nine points at the end of this doesn’t know the history,” Levin said.
Kamah Woelfel, 31, is among the state’s African Americans whose views have evolved on the matter in recent years. A cousin came out of the closet, she said, and she came to have friends at college and later at the rehabilitation hospital where she works who were openly gay.
The issue remains a divisive one at family gatherings for Woelfel, a Randallstown resident who was raised as a Catholic. The news is always on, and politics is an inevitable topic of conversation. Her 64-year-old mother and three siblings, ages 28 to 42, have all switched their views to favor same-sex marriage. Her father remains opposed.
“He definitely is still trying to sway us back, but I say, ‘Dad, come on — it’s 2012.’ ”
In the Post poll, a gap remains between the views of white voters in Maryland, who favor gay nuptials 56 percent to 39 percent, and black voters, who tilt against it. In the survey, 42 percent of African American voters support the measure, and 53 percent oppose it.
Among Democrats, the racial divide is more pronounced. While 76 percent of white Democrats back Question 6, support is 40 percent among black Democrats. Republicans in the state oppose the measure by 2 to 1, while independents support it 2 to 1.
The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 11-15 among a random sample of 1,106 Maryland adults. Interviews were conducted on conventional land-line and cellular telephones, and in English and Spanish. The sample of 934 registered voters and 843 likely voters each have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Carol Morello, Rachel Karas, Jon Cohen and Scott Clement contributed to this report.