A new Rutgers-Eagleton poll found growing support for same-sex marriage among New Jersey voters. The poll showed 54 percent of voters say gay marriage should be legalized. Fewer than 40 percent opposed the move, while 7 percent had no position on the issue.

During the 2009 lame duck session, only 46 percent of Jersey voters were in favor of gay marriage, with 40 percent opposed.

"We have seen a clear shift towards great support for same-sex marriage, both here in New Jersey and nationally," said Rutgers-Eagleton poll director David Redlawsk. "We've seen the shift occur, pretty much, across the spectrum of demographic groups, with the exception of the strong religious groups and most conservative voters."

Born-again or evangelical Christians remained strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, with seven in ten against its legalization. Conservative voters expressed similar numbers with 69 percent opposed.

While a clear gap has formed between Democrats and Republicans on the issue, independent voters have made a significant difference in the numbers, with 55-percent in favor of the move.

Redlawsk noted ideological polarization on the issue since October. Moderates and liberals became more supportive, while conservative voters have become more opposed. The gap between liberals and conservatives on legalizing gay marriage increased from 43 to 57 points over just a few months.

Men have grown more accepting as well. In October, 47 percent of men supported legalization. The number jumped to 52 percent earlier this month.

Governor Chris Christie said the only way same-sex marriage would become a reality in New Jersey is if it receives public approval on the ballot. State Democrats said they will not put a "civil rights issue" up for referendum, despite support for gay marriage in the majority of recent surveys.

Redlawsk added, "Even though the polling shows majority support, a campaign is a very different thing. "You get into a campaign environment, and especially if opponents spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and bring a lot of outside money in, it's pretty uncertain what the outcome would be."

The Rutgers-Eagleton poll results were formed from a survey of 914 adults between February 9 and 11.