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Prop 8 repeal: Does a new poll show it has a chance?

Community/Meta Marriage equality Prop 8

By Jacob Combs

Polling is an inherently inexact science (as any of the conflicting polls claiming to predict the results of next week’s Iowa GOP caucus demonstrate), but a new poll by the California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund shows a strong majority of independent voters in California (60 percent, to be exact) in support of legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Perhaps more significantly, a full 44 percent strongly support marriage equality, while only 30 percent oppose it.  Independent voters make up around 20 percent of the state’s electorate.  In 2009, a poll of independent voters conducted by over 30 California organizations, including the Courage Campaign, showed 49 percent opposed and 33 percent opposed.

The new poll, conducted by the firm Tulchin Research, comes a little over a month after a November poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) which showed 43 percent support for marriage equality, with another 35 percent supporting civil unions and only 21 percent against legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.  In February, PPP found 51 percent in support of marriage equality and 40 percent opposed.

History shows, however, that the answers people give pollsters can be different from the way they pull the level in the privacy of the voting booth.  In May of 2008, the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle published the results of two conflicting polls only five days apart: the LA Times poll found Prop 8 polling 54 percent in favor and 35 percent against, while the SF Chronicle cited a Field poll showing Californians supported marriage equality by a 51-42 margin.

As we all know, Prop 8 did pass in 2008, 52 to 48 percent. What do you think?  Is this new poll the sign of a true shift in public opinion?


  • 1. Phillip  |  December 30, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I don't think so. I think it's an indication of public opinion moving in our favor in general. I'll give that. However, what bothers me about polls is that it's not a guarantee that those polled will actually get out there and vote. It works on both sides of the issue of course. Just too risky.

  • 2. Sagesse  |  December 30, 2011 at 11:02 am


  • 3. Christian  |  December 30, 2011 at 11:04 am

    What were the poll numbers prior to the passage of Prop 8 and how do they compare to the myriad of polling numbers today? If you are trying to see if there is a possible 3 point shift in election results it sounds like you'd need to see at least that much change in the polling numbers.

  • 4. jpmassar  |  December 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Citing May, 2008 polls taken immediately after the CSC decision legalizing same-sex marriage, and them comparing them to results in November, 2008, after NOM et al unleashed a cannonade of ads against marriage equality, makes no sense.

    Sure, you can compare the polls taken immediately before the November 2008 election with the results. That makes sense. Those polls do suggest that people did not accurately report how they intended to vote; that's true. Compare apples and apples, not apples and orangutans.

    But what's not being accounted for is the vast cultural change and cultural awareness that has taken place over the last three years. Because of this the polls now are likely much more of an accurate indicator than they were back then. Can that assertion be proved without an actual vote taking place? Of course not. But given that the general population is much more aware of the whole issue now than back three years ago it seems pretty reasonable.

    The other thing no one ever takes into account is that in 2008 the enemy got to write the proposition they wanted to present to the voters. They decided on the language. In the incredibly unlikely event that a ballot proposition were to go before the voters in California in 2012, the language on the ballot initiative would be utterly different than what voters saw in 2008. Polling unequivocally demonstrates that the wording is incredibly important (i.e., "marriage is defined as between a man and a woman" bad vs. "gay and lesbians should be allowed to get married" good). The change of wording ALONE would probably be enough to swing a 52-48 result to a 50-50 result, and then you have all the cultural and demographic change that has happened in the last (will have been) four years.

    But all that is pretty much water under the dam. Time for the Ninth Circuit to issue it's decision!

  • 5. johnfromco  |  December 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I think there's a difference between what a person will tell another about equality in a survey and how they would vote if nobody knows how they voted.

    Many people know it is wrong to be anti-equality, even anti-equality people often know this. So, even when they personally are anti-equality, they won't necessarily tell a person in a survey that. But give them anonymity, and things change. When they think someone might think less of them for being anti-equality, they will act like they support it, even when they don't.

    That's the problem with putting rights to a vote. It shouldn't be about whether I personally think someone should or shouldn't have rights. Rather, it's about whether or not constitutional protections should be extended to someone. It's not about voting for my favorite American Idol contestant, or saying what way of living I personally think is right or wrong. It's about what is right and wrong. And I think that distinction gets lost in the voting booth.

    Isn't that one of the reasons we want the donors to anti-equality campaigns to have to give their names? We've made great progress with public sentiment, but private sentiment takes a while longer. Still, I do think things are getting better, just not necessarily in the ways the polls indicate.

  • 6. Charles  |  December 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Honestly, repeal is risky for us. If we win, marriage is ok in CA only. The existing case would become moot. Pity, as it has a real chance, if upheld by The Nine, to open the doors nationally.

  • 7. jpmassar  |  December 30, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    And if has a real chance, if overturned by the Nine, to close the doors for thirty years to their being a "fundamental right" for same-sex couples to be married as a matter of US constitutional right.

    No one ever seems to care about that branch of the tree. No one ever seems to mention that possibility when discussing whether to have a ballot initiative. It seems like it is always just assumed that if allowed to get to the Supreme Court, there is no doubt about what will happen, nor any concern about the consequences if the worst happens.

    I'm not saying that it isn't a rational decision to go to the Supreme Court and disavow a ballot initiative. But seems like everyone should understand all the possibilities and possible ramifications before they make up their mind which approach is best.

  • 8. jpmassar  |  December 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    "And IT has a real chance"

  • 9. Stefan  |  January 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    We know the risks involved. Olsen and Boise would not have taken this case if they were not extremely confident of a win.

    "It seems like it is always just assumed that if allowed to get to the Supreme Court, there is no doubt about what will happen, nor any concern about the consequences if the worst happens."

    Most all legal experts are saying that Walker's ruling will be upheld even at the Supreme Court level (though it will likely be a narrow ruling which will only apply to California).

  • 10. Fr. Bill  |  December 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Saw over on Pamshouseblend that the 9th Circuit issued its opinion in Family PAC v. McKenna that Family PAC (affiliated with NOM and Family Policy Institute) must disclose names and addresses of it's donors in Prop. That's a lot of losses for them on this issue. Wish there was a rule of Federal Procedure that would bar them from litigation or filing appeals until they have complied with all the orders against them.

  • 11. Fr. Bill  |  December 30, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Oops the case involved the Washinton State measure

  • 12. Steven  |  December 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    2012 will not be like 2004 election.

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