It’s become a hobby for me to follow the news stories related to Prop 8 and its fallout. I like using Google News because it draws stories from journalistic monoliths like the New York Times as well as little bedroom community papers and blogs, and the spectrum of “voices” captured in the comments sections are diverse and sometimes even insightful.
It also shows the results of the latest polls. Now I take polls with a grain of salt, as I do “takes” on results. For example, it was loudly celebrated that the margin of “yes” and “no” votes on Prop 8 narrowed greatly since Prop 22 eight years before, supposedly signifying that “a lot more people have gone over to the side supporting same-sex marriage.” The flaw in this reasoning is that 2008 was a much more liberal voting year than 2000, and the promise of Obama was a great deal more alluring for liberals to get out the vote. The fact is, if only the same people who came out to vote on Prop 22 came out to vote on Prop 8, there might not be any difference at all.
But, getting back to polls. When looking at polls, and news articles about polls, I try to remind myself of this maxim: People notice what you tell them to notice.
Okay, I said I don’t hold a great deal of stock in polls, but I’m still interested in them, because they offer at least a ballpark idea of what people are thinking. One poll I’d be greatly interested in– and I’m sure has crossed a lot of minds– is: How has the fallout after the passing of Proposition 8 affected their opinion of the same-sex marriage movement? Do they feel more sympathetic towards the cause for same-sex marriage? In their opinion, have the protests, legal challenges and boycotts against Prop 8 helped the same-sex marriage cause or hurt it? Would they vote differently if the election were held again today? How would they vote?
I have my own thoughts on what such a poll would reveal, but my opinion on this doesn’t really matter. And besides, I’ve been surprised before (probably as surprised as a lot of people when Prop 8 passed). I just find it interesting that, with all their hard-focus investigative reporting on the subject, none of the major media entities had commissioned such a poll.
But I wonder if, for the sake of argument, the “No on 8″ camp had learned from a poll such as this that their actions and words had significantly lost them ground in the public’s opinion, would that cause them to change their approach? Would we see the protests suddenly stop, the boycotts be lifted, the angry sound bites of indignant celebrities cease? Would the politicians suddenly change their tunes? Are the gay marriage advocates trying to win public approval, or is that of secondary importance to acting out?
A poll of 800 voters in November ranked the impact “Yes on 8″ ads had on those who voted “yes”:
Teaching same-sex marriage in schools: 18%
Child with book about a king marrying a king: 5%
Traditional marriage (man marrying woman): 3%
Gavin Newsom on same-sex marriage: 2%
Children attending same-sex wedding in S.F.: 2%
Parents talking about their homosexual child: 2%
Commercial about kids (not specific): 1%
Religious commercials: 1%
Spanish commercial on same-sex marriage: 1%
Gavin Newsom couldn’t have helped the “No on 8″ cause with his “This door’s wide open now– It’s gonna happen, whether you like it or not!!” burst. Oh yeah, that’s how you win over the silent majority. And he’s thinking about running for governor in 2010? Someone needs to talk him out of it– all he’ll be doing is taking votes away from Moon Beam. On second thought, Gavin… good luck!
David Binder Research, meanwhile, also polled 800 people who voted “yes” on Prop. 8, asking if they could name something tangible that would cause them to change their mind and support same-sex marriage. Only 15% answered in the affirmative. The conditions included: calling marriage by another name; ensuring that same-sex marriage will not be taught in schools; ensuring that churches will not be forced to perform same-sex marriages; and approval, or lack of formal opposition, from churches or religious leaders.
And, frankly, I don’t think the gay marriage advocates would firmly commit to any of those conditions.
We’re hearing a lot of noise and most of the messages now are just regurgitated ad nauseum. Enough with the outrage and posturing and the name-calling… Let’s go to the polls–
How’s that working for them, California?