In the middle of September 2008, polls in California were showing that voters were about evenly split on the issue of Proposition 8—a ballot measure proposing to ban same-sex marriage in the state. The “Yes on 8” campaign seeking to overturn marriage equality was leading by three points, according to some polls. That was within the margin of error.
A new report, underwritten by the LGBT Mentoring Project and authored by the group’s director, David Fleischer, makes the case that during the final six weeks of the campaign, marriage equality foes were successful in turning five percent of voters to their side, sealing the fate of gay couples throughout the state. From The Prop. 8 Report c:
No on 8 lost ground among many types of voters, but it lost most ground among parents, white Democrats, Latinos, and voters in the greater Bay Area.
Fleischer found that the biggest factor in the Yes on 8 campaign’s favor was an ad run during those six weeks called “Princes” in which a little girl comes home to tell mom that she learned in school that princes can marry princes and “I can marry a princess.”
Almost three-quarters of the net movement toward the ban was among parents with kids under 18 living at home. Approximately 500,000 of them moved away from us. The lesson of the Yes on 8 campaign: when parents hear that their kids are in danger, even if it’s a lie some of them believe it—particularly when the lie largely goes unanswered.
Fleischer was critical of the No on 8 campaign for not rebutting the “Princes” ad sooner, since the rebuttal ad, released weeks later, proved to be effective and led to a last-minute fundraising boost — but it was too late.
While white Democratic mothers—who had previously been supportive—were mostly those who abandoned their opposition to Prop. 8, the study showed fathers and voters between the ages of 30 and 49 also changed their minds.
The research did not ask about religious affiliation but did show that many Latinos, especially women, grew in their support for Prop. 8.
Among Latinas, the ban picked up even more support than it did among women as a whole. Latinas switched sides and moved 26 points: they began supporting same-sex marriage by 8 points, and then ended by supporting the ban on same-sex marriage by 18. By contrast, among Latino men support for the ban on same-sex marriage remained almost unchanged during the final six weeks of the campaign: it went from leading by 25 points to leading by just 24.
Two years out, however, another recent poll showed that support for marriage equality has grown among California Latinos—especially Catholic Latinos, who now support gay marriage by 57 percent.
That finding correlates with a nationwide Gallup poll showing that overall, Catholics of all ethnicities (at 62 percent) are much more likely to agree that gay and lesbian relationships are “morally acceptable.”
The Prop. 8 Report doesn’t just dump information and run, however. Fleischer also presents fourteen recommendations for marriage equality supporters, including starting educational efforts now, cultivating allies and building strong alliances especially in communities that supported Prop. 8, like African-Americans.
The report also suggests embracing honesty.
Our opposition depicts us in a highly unflattering way in every election. We give them the power to define us when only they talk about us. We therefore have to talk about ourselves or we functionally forfeit the election. Honesty is therefore not only the idealistic option; it is also our only realistic option. The alternative is hoping that voters will figure out the truth about us when we give them no information to help them, knowing they will be exposed to anti-gay propaganda…
While it remains monumentally unfair that gay and lesbian people have to fight for their basic rights at the ballot box, this piece about honesty is, indeed, the best policy for our community. Until gays and lesbians are honest with themselves about who they are, and then honest with all those around them about who they are, anti-gay factions, whether religiously driven or not, will continue to deny basic civil rights to this community.
Honesty is something we should all be teaching our children.