A small poll of voters in the US state of North Carolina says that most would vote against a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Republican lawmakers announced last week that they will push for a voter referendum on the issue in 2012.

The state already bars gay marriage but the moves would prevent courts from overturning the status quo.

Although the Public Policy Polling survey found that 61 per cent oppose gay marriage, just 30 per cent said they would vote for a ban.

Fifty-five per cent said they would vote against a ban and 15 per cent were unsure.

Of the 580 people surveyed, 25 per cent said gay people should be allowed to marry and 29 per cent backed civil unions.

Republicans in the state, who now control both chambers of the legislature, believe there is plenty of support for the move.

On Monday, they will debate whether to present the amendment to voters next year.

While a House version of the bill would allow other forms of legal recognition for gay couples, such as civil unions, the Senate version seeks to ban all recognition of same-sex partners.

Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, commented: “It’s pretty simple: North Carolinians don’t support gay marriage but they also don’t think this constitutional amendment is necessary

“And they also think this particular proposal goes too far by targeting civil unions, which many voters in the state support.”