March 7, 2012
By Adam Bink
Like Joe, I remember being up in Portland in 2009 waiting for the PPP numbers that ended up accurately forecasting the loss we would endure two days later (PPP had us losing 51/47; we lost 52.75/47.25). Ever since then I’ve taken their polls very seriously.
Today, a new poll out from the folks at Public Policy Polling:
It looks like Maine voters will reverse their 2009 decision and legalize gay marriage in the state this fall. 54% think that gay marriage should be legal to only 41% who think it should be illegal. And when we asked about the issue using the exact language voters will see on the ballot this fall, they say they’re inclined to support the referendum by a 47-32 margin.
There’s some indication that the exact ballot language is confusing people a little at this point. Only 67% of those who support gay marriage in general say they’ll vote yes while 12% say they’ll not and 21% are not sure. At the same time just 60% of those who oppose gay marriage generally say they’ll vote against the proposed referendum, while 24% say they’ll vote for it and 16% are not sure. My guess is at the end of the day voters will see this as a straight referendum on gay marriage regardless of what the language on the ballot says- and the 54/41 number bodes well for pro-equality voters.
Republicans’ opinions are pretty much the same as they were in 2009. But Democrats’ support for gay marriage has increased slightly, from 71% to 78%. And more importantly independents have gone from voting against gay marriage 52/46 three years ago to now supporting it by a 57/36 margin.
A few grains of salt. One, that thirteen point margin looks spectacular, no? Unfortunately, it is a long way until November. The widely respected Public Policy Institute of California poll showed Prop 8 going down in flames 41-55% as late as mid-September 2008 (see this SF Chronicle article with the tragic headline “Poll: Same-sex marriage ban not wooing voters” and a quote from PPIC’s chief pollster “That 55% looks pretty strong.” The Yes on 8 campaign ran their “whether you like it or not” and “princess” ads and the rest is history.
Two, studies of other ballot referendums on this issue have shown pre-election numbers for the pro-equality side always shrinking when it comes to the final result on Election Day. 54% often doesn’t hold.
Three, when asked about the exact ballot language we’ll see, support drops to 47/32 in favor of the referendum. Not exactly numbers you take to the bank.
Fourth, these numbers become frazzled if the Republican-controlled Maine Legislature puts a competing measure on the ballot (such as a measure to legalize civil unions), which is possible. Give voters an “out” to feel like they’re being pro-gay while voting against marriage, and research has shown they’ll take it. That would put these numbers in a different place.
A grain of salt the other way is that support for equality is certainly trending up, but in a campaign environment, that can change. All the more reason to have conversations early and often.