A majority of New Jersey voters favor the legalization of gay marriage, a new poll found.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they support marriage equality, 32 percent were opposed, and 16 percent unsure. Pollsters at Rutgers University's the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling surveyed 615 registered voters by telephone from August 9 – 15. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

“We were surprised by the margin favoring gay marriage, which is much greater than previously reported,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers.

“While the number of supporters has grown only a little, the number directly opposing gay marriage has fallen significantly. At the same time, more people say they are unsure or refuse to answer the question. These may be voters who are uncomfortable with gay marriage but who don't want to express direct opposition, suggesting support is not as lopsided as it appears.”

According to the poll, 61 percent of Democrats support marriage equality, while 51 percent of Republicans are opposed, and 58 percent of independents are in favor.

Redlawsk noted that Republicans and conservatives were more likely to avoid the question.

“We see an interesting pattern, with Republicans and conservatives much more likely to say 'don't know' to the gay marriage question. This suggests either some measure of uncertainty and changing attitudes by these voters, or perhaps reluctance to express a negative view in a state known for support of gay rights,” he said in a press release.

A large majority (58%) of respondents also support civil unions, while only 26 percent oppose them.

New Jersey is among the five states that recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions. In Hawaii, Illinois, Delaware and, most recently, Rhode Island lawmakers approved legislation legalizing civil unions. In New Jersey, however, civil unions were approved by the Legislature to remedy a state Supreme Court ruling declaring the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

(Related: Half of Pennsylvanians support gay marriage.)