A poll released today has found 54 percent of Americans believe the marriages of gay couples should be legally recognised with 73 percent of those aged 18-34 in favour of such a move.

The CNN/ORC poll found support at its highest levels since 2008 and opposition at its lowest, down from 55 percent to 42 percent.

Results also showed the question was one on which opinions were firmly held. Of the 54 percent support, 39 percent said they were “strongly” in favour, while 15 percent were in favour but “not strongly”.

Of those opposed to equal marriage rights between gay and straight couples, the figures were 34 percent and 9 percent respectively. Nearly three-quarters of Americans have strongly-held beliefs on the issue.

In line with other polls, the most support was found among people aged 18-34. Of those over 65, only 34 percent approved of marriage equality.

While wages appeared to have little impact, those who had had a university education were 60 percent in favour, those who had not were only 47 percent in favour.

Less than a quarter, 23 percent, of Republicans supported marriage equality, compared with 70 percent of Democrats.

60 percent of people said they had a family member or close friend who was gay, compared with 45 percent in 2007.

58 percent do not believe sexual orientation can be changed, 34 percent said they thought it could.

ORC International conducted interviews with 1,009 adult Americans by telephone on May 29-31, 2012.