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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Field Poll: Gay Marriage Ban Losing Right Now

This week, the Field Poll was released showing that Proposition 8, the Ban on Gay Marriage was trailing by a 51-42 margin. This bodes fairly well for the efforts to defeat it.

From my experience it seems very rare that a measure that is initially trailing to reverse course and pass. The tendency in most proposition is once the ads start flying and the mudslinging begins, people develop more uncertainty and uncertainty in propositions leads to no votes.

I think there are a number of other factors that will also lead this measure to ultimately be defeated. But first, some interesting, if not altogether unpredictable splits in terms of demographics.

There is of course a very strong split between Democrats and Republicans on this. 63% of Democrats oppose Prop. 8 while 68% of Republicans support it. Non-partisans also oppose it by a 66% to 27% margin. Given predictions that this will be a Democratic electorate this fall, that bodes well for it going down to defeat. Another Field Poll showed Obama with a 24 point lead over McCain in California and there was a huge enthusiasm gap of nearly 2:1 with around 56% of Democrats excited to cast their vote for Obama but only 20-something percent of Republicans feeling the same.

The age factor is interesting as well. Not surprising the greatest support is among those voters under 30. I've always said that it is just a matter of time because those in my generation, gay marriage is really not an issue. We grew up with gay friends, family members, openly gay people in the community. As such it is just a matter of time before younger generations become a majority. What is interesting is that the baby boomer demographic, those 50-64 for whom gay rights first emerged, is also strongly supportive. It is then somewhat surprising that my demographic would be evenly split being between 30 to 50, although I wonder if there is a break point there.

Ethnically, Latinos are the only group supporting Prop. 8 with whites, African-Americans, and Asians opposing it.

The strongest religious group favoring Prop. 8 are the Protestants at 56-40%, Catholics interestingly enough are evenly divided, but all other religions and those with no religious preference are strongly opposed. Evangelicals favor the amendment by a 66-31 margin while non-evangelicals are opposed 59-34. From these splits, you can basically see where the support is coming from, and that is almost entirely from Evangelical Christians, again not surprisingly.

Here is another reason I think this proposition will lose. Those who personally know or work with gays and lesbians oppose the proposition by 54-40. That group includes three-quarters of the voters statewide. That ties in with my prediction about demographic shifts ultimately rendering this a non-issue. Familiarity tends to neutralize a lot of fears.

And along those lines, I think one of the reasons that this will fail is not captured in the Field Poll analysis. Basically, by the time the election rolls around same-sex couples will have been married nearly six months. The electorate will see that these marriages are not really the threat that they are made out to be. That will help neutralize a lot of the scare-tactics that proponents of the proposition will employ. People will see that same-sex marriages are not a threat to the institution of marriage. They will see that the sky is not falling. Playing into that is that nearly three-quarters of the people in this state know gay people, many will know married gay couples, and this familiarity will lead most likely to people voting against this amendment.

In the end, the best thing that could have happened for this cause for marriages to actually occur. You will have a strong Democratic electorate this fall, enthusiastically coming to polls in huge numbers to vote for Obama, the Republican electorate is not enthusiastic about McCain, they may not come out in huge numbers.

In short, I think this proposition which is already trailing will not pass. Already 62% of likely voters know something about this proposed amendment and I think the trends in propositions are for the no side to gain rather than lose strength.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting