Nearly half of Americans support banning gay marriage, but a majority support its legalization, a new AP poll found.

The nationwide poll was released a day after North Carolina lawmakers voted in favor of sending a constitutional amendment that seeks to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples to voters in May. A similar question will appear on the November ballot box in Minnesota.

More Americans favor banning gay marriage by constitutional amendment, the survey found. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they favor such amendments, while 40 percent disagreed. Another 8 percent said they did not know.

However, pollsters also found that a majority of American support the legalization of gay marriage.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they favor marriage equality, while 44 percent were opposed.

And a larger majority (57%) believe gay and lesbian couples are entitled to the same legal benefits married heterosexual couples receive.

“If they're living together and cohabitating and are a couple, [they should have] the insurance and retirement and that type of thing, the monetary benefits,” Dale Shoemaker, 54, a military retiree from Boise Idaho, told the news service.

The nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 people conducted from August 18 – 22 also found 44 percent of respondents who oppose gay marriage called the issue extremely or very important to them personally. Only 32 percent of supporters viewed the issue as that important.