In its August 2009 California Opinion Index, California’s Field Poll looked at how California’s electorate has evolved since the 1970′s. Some trends are expected; in both 1978 and 2009, women comprised 53% of registered California voters. Compared to 1978, there are fewer white non-Hispanics, more homeowners, fewer Protestants, and more non-Christians registered to vote.
Finally, the poll evaluated support and opposition to same-sex marriage between 1977 and 2009, with distressing results: California Republicans are 7% more opposed to same-sex marriage now than 32 years ago.
“As the demographic profile of the state’s voters has changed, so too have voter opinions on a number of important social issues. Republicans, on the other hand, have not changed their views on this issue, and if anything, are now more opposed than they were thirty years ago. A nearly three to one majority of Republicans (68% to 23%) currently opposes allowing same-sex marriage in California. This is marginally greater than their 65% to 30% opposition found in a 1977 Field Poll.”
Fortunately, the numbers show great strides made in the pro-choice movement; while CA Democratic support for choice in was 52% in 1977, it’s 82% today, and 55% among CA Republicans. This progress contrasts strongly with the great leap backwards in California’s support of LGBT individuals. 1977 was the time of Harvey Milk and his campaign against the Briggs Initiative to fire out, gay teachers– same-sex marriage was not a realistic possibility in the public discourse. It was the same year that Miami, Dade-County voters struck down a gay rights protection ordinance. It was the same year that Anita Bryant was pied by gay rights activists during an October press conference. And still, there was more support for same-sex marriage in 1977 than today in California.
This comes on the heels of a new poll by James Carville’s polling agency, “Democracy Corps – Maine,” who polled Mainers on healthcare and apparently “threw in” a question on the upcoming Question 1 vote.
Pro-equality advocates are hailing the results as a “9-point lead,” but this is misleading and potentially dangerous. The 9% is both “Undecided” voters and those who “Refused” to answer the question. This is an important distinction: Undecided is not the same as Refused. Refused, logically, will slant anti-gay in telephone polling; voters are less willing to admit they support taking away rights. The breakdown also points to this; pro-equality opponents of Proposition 1 are stronger in their opposition than supporters are in their support.
Lastly, other parts of the poll report a 21% margin of voters reporting they voted for Barack Obama; he only won in Maine by 17%. Two possibilities might explain this 4-point gap. The first is that voters, self-conscious about voting for the losing candidate, lied. The second is that the poll has a 4-point liberal slant.
Previous polling showed 48% support for, and 46% opposition to taking away rights from Maine same-sex couples. While the momentum of publicizing a “9-point lead” can generate funding for both sides of the campaign, it can also generate false assumptions of victory, as in California. Yesterday, I found an old email from a friend from after the November election. It said, “The election’s over, and you can’t marry your girlfriend.” I think it would ultimately behoove the No on Question 1 campaign to assume the worst, and keep working for the best.
Maine Anti-Gay Campaign Mirrors California
Maine Anti-Gays echo California bigots, again
California Marriage Equality Groups Risk Rights for Petty Rivalry