Young Americans are much more likely to support gay marriage than their parents, a new poll by The New York Times, CBS News, and MTV has shown.

The survey asked participants questions on a wide range of cultural and political issues. 44% of the 17 to 29 year olds surveyed believed gay couples should be allowed to marry.

This is compared with 28% of the public at large.

Last June President Bush supported a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, sticking firm to the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, and despite the fact that Vice President Dick Cheney and even the first lady had differing opinions.

“Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them,” Mr Bush said during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. “And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) praised the Senate after the bill failed to pick up the votes of a majority and fell far short of the two-thirds vote necessary to approve a constitutional amendment.

“The Bush administration’s transparent and desperate appeal to its conservative base is both shameless and shameful,” commented Caroline Fredrickson, the director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

Amongst the polls other questions, 54% said they plan to vote for a Democratic candidate in 2008 while an “overwhelming majority” believe the nation is ready to elect a president who is black, female, or has admitted to smoking marijuana.

62% support a government financed national health-care system, compared with 47% of the general public, and 30% believe, “Americans should always welcome new immigrants,” compared with just 24% generally.

Young people, however share a similar view on abortion, with almost a quarter of those surveyed saying it shouldn’t be available and 38% saying it should, but with restrictions.

Mr Bush’s approval rating was just 28%, much below the 80% given in a previous poll after the September 11th attacks in New York.

The poll, conducted between June 15 to June 23, involved 659 adults aged 17 to 29.