On One Hand

November 5, 2008

Who Passed Proposition 8?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 9:06 am

It looks like Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in California, will pass. And already I see chatter on the Internet among white gay men saying that this is Barack Obama’s fault because of the initiative’s strong support among African-Americans. They are claiming that a turnout boost in those communities caused the initiative to pass.

I want to first point out that, even if it really passed solely because of a turnout surge among African-Americans, blaming its passage on them or on Obama is just about the most terrible way to look at it possible. If you’re going to go around claiming we should be a “colorblind” society that judges people as individuals rather than as groups, you can’t turn around and blame an entire ethnic groups for an amendment’s passage.

But in a more pragmatic critique on their claim, I think the numbers clearly show that Prop. 8 did NOT pass because of a Barack Obama turnout surge. It got just about exactly the same numbers it would have versus a generic Democratic candidate, and perhaps could have done a little better. The numbers show the Barack Obama turnout boost was far less influential on proposition 8 than the Sarah Palin boost among social conservatives.

Exit polls show African-Americans supported Prop 8, 7-3, with whites slightly opposed and Latinos breaking even. But a look at the exit polls also shows that the amendment won in every single age bracket past 30 – with nearly 60 percent support in the 65 and older category – but lost decisively, 37-63 among the youngest voters.

Blacks made up 10 percent of the voters in the 2008 election in California, verses 6 percent in 2004. Assuming that the expanded Black turnout would have consistient proportions of pro-prop. 8 or anti-prop. 8 votes, the extra 4 percent Black tournout would mean that the anti gay marriage group got about 2.5 total points from Obama’s African-American surge.

That intially seems to be a damning case considering that it’s just about exactly the margin that Prop. 8 is passing by. But since the two figures are virtually idenitical, it means that if Barack Obama boosted turnout in ANY segment of the population BESIDES African-Americans who voted against Prop. 8, his candidacy would not have made a difference in its passage.

Meanwhile, the only age bracket that Proposition 8 failed in is 18-22 year olds. First-time voters opposed the amendment by the overwhelming margin of 64-36.

In 2004, 18-29 year olds were 22 percent of the electorate. This year they were only 20 percent, but not because they didn’t turn out in expanded numbers; when breakdowns for voting vs nonvoting 18-29 year olds are calculated, many more voted in 2008. But turnout was also boosted in other segments of the electorate, since the Obama campaign targeted and turned out its own supporters by knocking doors and calling them, increasing numbers in every group except 65 and over. Ultimately the share of the 65+ age bracket shrank from 23 percent to 16 percent – a 7 point drop.

So when you consider that this age group supported the same-sex marriage ban 60-40, its clear that the ban lost just about the same support by shrinking the share of that group than it ganed by boosting turnout among African-Americans. The 60-40 numbers are not far off at all from the 70-30 numbers African-Americans polled gave to Proposition 8, except that their weight was decreased by one point shy of twice as much as African-American weight was increased by.

On balance, turnout changes seem to disfavor Proposition 8 more than they favor it.

But it also seems pretty clear that Barack Obama’s turnout surge among minorities brought in a segment of the their population that was more gay-friendly than those who normally vote. Proposition 8 failed, 49-51, among non-whites making less than $50,000 a year – but it passed among 55-45 among non-whites making more than that. Older, middle-class and more affluent minority voters – who are more reliable voters – tended to approve the initiative, while those most likely to be brought to the polls as new voters with increased turnout – younger and poorer voters – voted against it.


1 Comment »

  1. Great Article

    This was very well-written – I gave your link to a few of my more irrationally distraught fellow white gay peers. One of them even ended his Facebook friendship with me over it.

    In any event, thanks for a very sensical article. I thought you might appreciate these as well, they sound similar themes. The latter one has some rather fascinating numbers.



    Comment by Anonymous — November 12, 2008 @ 1:47 am | Reply

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