A majority of Americans support legalizing same sex marriage, according to a new CNN poll released Tuesday -- the latest example of an ongoing paradigm shift on the divisive issue.

Fifty-one percent of American adults surveyed said the law ought to recognize "marriages between gay and lesbian couples" as valid. Forty-seven percent were opposed, and 2 percent had no opinion.

The survey reflects a dramatic and recent change in attitudes from just years ago, when the public was decisively against the idea. An ABC/Washington Post poll last month also found that a majority of Americans want to legalize same sex marriage.

The thorny issue has played out in a number of states and on a federal level as the Obama administration in February stopped defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman -- a move that Republicans are fighting.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll surveyed 824 adult Americans by telephone on April 9-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.