Prop. 8: Polling, Analysis, Obama
So the latest poll on Prop. 8 has come out from the PPIC, showing the No side still ahead, albeit with a narrower lead than the last time PPIC was in the field.
A majority of Californians still oppose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, but the margin is narrowing so notably that the fate of Proposition 8 may hinge on the turnout for the presidential race.
A new poll released late Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California shows Prop. 8 losing 52 to 44 percent among likely voters. That eight-point margin has narrowed from the 14-point spread that PPIC polls found in August and September. Just 4 percent of likely voters remain undecided.
"The vote on Proposition 8 could get closer between now and the election, because we know that Californians are evenly divided in general on whether they favor or oppose gay marriage," said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the PPIC.
There should be a Field Poll on this next week. But I think it'll confirm what we see here - a close race that either side can take. The polling guru Nate Silver of 538 waded into this today.
Both the PPIC and SurveyUSA polls have Barack Obama leading by large (20+ point) margins, so I'm not sure that opponents of the measure can count on some sort of turnout surge above and beyond what is already reflected in the polls. There are evidently fair numbers of Obama/'Yes on 8' tickets, especially among the state's black and Latino populations.
On the one hand, there have been suggestions that there is something of 'Bradley Effect' on polling on gay marriage bans, and that such measures tend to overperform their polls, although a more recent analysis refutes this suggestion.
On the other hand, because ballot measures are confusing, it is usually better to be on the 'No' side of them ... people tend to vote 'no' on things that they don't understand. In this case, that gives an advantage to the marriage equality folks. (It may even be the case that some voters vote 'no', thinking that they're voting no to gay marriage, when in fact the wording of the resolution is such that a 'no' vote protects gay marriage).
I'd peg the 'no' side as about a 55/45 favorite, but not more than that.
Sounds pretty accurate to me. So what can turn the tide in this race at this late date? Well, there are the human interest stories like this ex-mayor of Folsom coming out and opposing Prop. 8 in an emotional display. I think putting a face on whose rights would be eliminated can be powerful. There is also value in putting a spotlight on the extremism and basic indecency coming from the Yes side.
Standing there as the “Yes on 8” rally outside Oakland’s Foothill Missionary Baptist Church began to wind down today, I noticed a gentleman in the crowd approach an elderly woman who was holding a “Gay marriage = legal perversion” sign. I eavesdropped – hey, that’s my job – as he told her he agreed with her sign completely, but he urged her to ditch it and just use a “Yes on 8” sign instead because her homemade sign’s sentiment might turn off some voters.
They're trying to hide their wingnuts, but they're pretty ubiquitous. And this story seems to me to be a good one to push, considering that one of the key arguments of the Yes side concerns classroom indoctrination.
A Salinas High School teacher who distributed “Yes on Proposition 8” literature to her students last week has been asked to refrain from doing so by administrators [...]
The literature that was passed out to students says it is important to protect marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.
The one-page statement also says it is critical to vote yes on Proposition 8, saying its failure would eventually force the state to approve “polygamy, polymory, incest, group and other ‘creative’ arrangements for marriage.”
Think of the children!
But a more controversial idea, expressed by Andrew Sullivan, is that Barack Obama should get involved in this race. Obama has already expressed his opposition to Prop. 8, but Sullivan argues that he should do more.
As expected, one reason Proposition 8, stripping gay couples of marriage equality, is still viable in California is because of strong African-American support. Black Californians back the anti-gay measure by a margin of 20 points, 58 - 38, in the SUSA poll. No other ethnic group comes close to the level of opposition and black turnout is likely to be very high next month.
All this makes it vital, in my opinion, that Barack Obama strongly and unequivocally oppose Proposition 8 in California, rather than keeping mainly quiet as he has done so far. We need him to make an ad opposing it. This is a core test of whether gay Americans should back Obama as enthusiastically as they have in the last month. If he does not stand up for gay couples now, why should we believe he will when he is in office? And if black Americans are the critical bloc that helps kill civil rights for gays, that will not help deepen Obama's governing coalition. It could tear it apart.
I think Sen. Obama is focused on winning a different election right now. Still, even a small measure, like sending out a fundraising appeal to his California list, could speak volumes. And as he's already on the record, it's not like the McCain campaign couldn't already point to the issue if they so chose.
What do you think?