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Support for same-sex marriage appears to be increasing in California and has hit 50 percent for the first time in polling by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The new survey indicates that gay marriage advocates who want to repeal California's Proposition 8 might have a fighting chance of prevailing, if they can qualify their measure for the November ballot.

Proposition 8, passed in 2008, places a prohibition on same-sex marriage in the state constitution and is being litigated in federal court. While one faction of gay marriage supporters is backing the repeal initiative, another group has contended that the climate for repeal must change more before trying to undo Proposition 8.

The PPIC poll found that support for gay marriage has reached 50 percent for the first time since the San Francisco-based think tank began polling on the issue in 2000. A sharp partisan division remains, with 64 percent of Democrats supporting same-sex marriage rights, while 67 percent of Republicans are opposed. However, 55 percent of independents are in favor.

The PPIC poll covered a wide range of political and social topics, and its findings largely mirrored those of a recent series of polls by the Field Research Corp. Among them:

• Businesswoman Meg Whitman has a very wide lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, 61 percent to 11 percent, in their contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and she's slightly ahead of the sole Democratic candidate, Attorney General Jerry Brown, 44 percent to 39 percent.

• Like the Field Poll, PPIC found that the economy, by a wide margin, is the political policy issue uppermost in the minds of voters.

• Another Republican business executive, Carly Fiorina, and former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell are virtually tied for the U.S. Senate nomination, with Assemblyman Chuck DeVore far behind both. With the leaders in the mid-20 percent range, nearly half of Republicans say they are undecided. Either Campbell or Fiorina is virtually tied with Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

• By a 2-1 margin, California voters are inclined to vote for Proposition 14, which would create a new kind of primary election for political offices in which all candidates, regardless of party, would appear on the same ballot and the top two primary vote-getters would face each other in the November general election.

• Nearly 70 percent of Californians support immigration reform, including creating a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

• While 77 percent believe that the state budget crisis is a big problem, they divide evenly on whether the deficit should be mostly by spending cuts (39 percent) or a combination of cuts and new taxes (38 percent), but just 6 percent say it should be taxes alone.

• Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval rating among voters has plummeted to 25 percent, virtually identical to the Field Poll number, while the Legislature's performance wins approval of just 9 percent, the first time that figure has dropped into the single digits. Field had it at 13 percent.

• President Barack Obama's standing in California also has slipped, with approval now at 52 percent among voters, down 13 percentage points from a year ago. Congressional approval has also declined to 14 percent, half of what it was in January. But, oddly, 44 percent of voters like the job their own congressional members are doing.

Complete poll results on these and other issues may be found here.

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