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A majority of Wyomingites support same-sex marriage, according to a University of Wyoming poll.

Researchers interviewed state residents by telephone from Oct. 13 to Oct. 28 -- as gay marriage was becoming legal.

On Oct. 17, a federal judge wrote an order legalizing the nuptials, and on Oct. 21, weddings began.

Interviewers asked respondents whether they agreed with the statement: “Homosexual couples should be allowed to get married.”

Fifty-three percent of people agreed; 39 percent disagreed.

The remaining 8 percent either didn’t have an opinion or declined to answer the question, said UW political science professor Jim King, a co-director of the poll.

“This represents a notable shift in public opinion,” King said. “Two years ago, 55 percent of Wyomingites disapproved of same-sex marriage and 40 percent approved. We’ve seen a reversal in those numbers.”

Support for same-sex marriage has been increasing in the past decade.

When UW researchers first asked the question in 2004, 27 percent of Wyomingites indicated approval. Approval increased a few percentage points every two years when UW polled.

“The rise from 40 percent approval in 2012 to 53 percent approval this year is a significant jump,” King said.

King doesn’t believe the court ruling legalizing marriage affected results. The proportion of respondents supporting and opposing same-sex marriage did not change after the court’s decision, he said.

Jeran Artery, chairman of Wyoming Equality, said he wasn’t surprised by the poll.

Wyoming Equality ran a public advocacy project called Wyoming Unites for Marriage, which in the past seven months has released lists of attorneys, faith leaders, business leaders and others who support marriage equality. That may have been influential, Artery said.

“Just a little over 50 percent is what we see in other conservative states, Southern states,” Artery said. “And the country, nationally, is at about 60 percent, and of course that averages out. Some states are significantly higher, and some states are lower, like Wyoming.”

Artery hopes support for gay marriage continues to increase in Wyoming, but he doubts support will ever be 100 percent.

“We’re not even at 100 percent acceptance for some of the other civil rights movements,” he said. “It’s hard for some folks to wrap their mind around this. I understand that, but I would hope they take a live-and-let-live mentality of 'I’ll stay out of your business; you stay out of mine.'”

Political ideology to an extent explains people’s attitudes on the issue, King said.

“Self-identified moderates and liberals support same-sex marriage by substantial margins, while conservatives remain opposed,” King said. “However, there also is a difference across age groups, with younger adults being more supportive of same-sex marriage than senior citizens, regardless of the person’s ideology.”

UW’s Survey Research Center interviewed 768 Wyoming residents. The department of political science, Wyoming Public Radio and the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center sponsored the poll.

The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Reach political reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at laura.hancock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

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