Washington, Feb. 27-(AP)--Gay marriage is a more powerful social issue for voters than either abortion or gun control, a new poll suggests.

Four in 10 voters say they would not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on gay marriage, even if they agree with the candidate on most other issues, according to a poll released Friday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Only a third in the poll, 34 percent, felt they would not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on abortion even if they agree on other issues and 32 percent who felt that way about a candidate who disagrees with them on gun control.

President Bush says he will back a constitutional amendment that would ban legal gay marriages, a position certain to make gay marriage a hot topic of debate during the presidential campaign. Democratic front-runner John Kerry and lead challenger John Edwards say they oppose gay marriage, but oppose a constitutional amendment banning those marriages.

Gay marriage is a crucial issue mostly for those who are opponents - especially conservatives, evangelicals and those 65 and over.

People opposed gay marriage by more than a 2-1 margin in the poll, but when asked if they consider a constitutional amendment a top priority, they placed it 21st in a list of 22 possible choices.

Almost half, 45 percent, said they strongly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.

The poll of 1,149 voters was taken Feb. 11-16 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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