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Same-sex marriage: 2 polls disagree

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Those of you who've been following the same-sex-marriage situation in CA may've noticed something odd (I'm almost tempted to say "queer," but only because I'm a little punchy, if that wasn't obvious from that last entry):

An LA Times poll released about a week ago said that 51% of Californians would vote in favor of the constitutional amendment preventing same-sex marriage.

But a Field poll (link is to a PDF file) released this week said that 51% of California voters approve of same-sex marriage. (And, depending on the details of how the question is asked, 51%-54% are opposed to the amendment per se.)

It's hard to see at first glance how to reconcile those numbers. Gary Langer, "ABC's Poobah of Polling," gives some useful commentary and explanation, noting that the two polls were talking to different groups (Times: all adult Californians; Field: registered voters only), had different lengths (boys are always comparing poll lengths, aren't they? Okay, I'm still a little punchy), and asked slightly different questions in a somewhat different order.

So I think that all we can conclude is that it's a complicated and controversial topic, and that we don't really know which way the vote will go in November (assuming the amendment makes the ballot). But that's always true; we never know for sure what's gonna happen.

And, of course, a lot can happen in the next five months.

It sure would be nice if there were a little more time before the amendment went to the polls, though. My impression is that in MA, in the end things went more or less as we'd hoped, in that by the time the legislature could vote, same-sex marriage had been happening for long enough that most people could see that the sky hadn't fallen. I kinda feel like the longer we have for people to settle into it as a normal fact of life, the less inclined voters will be to be outraged about it at the polls. So I'm hoping that the marriages begin on June 17, and I'm hoping (perhaps naively) that after seeing four and a half months of happy same-sex couples on TV, California's voters will turn down the amendment.

I know it won't be that easy. It'll take work, and money, to get there, and it'll probably end up being pretty close. But in the happy little world in my head, that's how I'm hoping it'll go.

Btw, the Mercury News has a graph of the Field poll data on this topic over the past 30 years. (The numbers come from a table in the abovelinked PDF.) I'm kind of amazed that even in 1977, over a quarter of Californians were in favor of same-sex marriage. And pleased, of course, to see the steady upward trend of that line over the years.

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I'd think that 51% is close enough to even that the for/against discrepancy would be covered by the margin of error alone, without even having to get into the details of the respective surveys.


Another help was that the system in MA is designed to be slower. To approach a constitutional amendment, you have to have two separate legislatures vote in favor of putting in on the ballot. So right after the court case, they rushed into the current MA legislature and got them to vote in favor of putting an anti-gay-marriage ammendment on the ballot. Then there was the election, when it became apparent that voting in favor of that was sufficient to get a number of incumbents kicked out of office (including, amusingly, the rep from Somerville who didn't even realize he had an opponent until he lost the primary to him -- he then used all his incumbenthood to wage a write-in campaign (sending all his constituents stickers to put on the ballot, so they would even have to write), which he then lost). So when the next legislature convened, it was less certain that they would vote the same way -- they had the numbers if all the remaining incumbents voted the same way again, but a bunch of folks looked at a) the number of their peers who'd lost office and b) the fact that the sky was still in an un-fallen state, and switched their votes.

Sorry to run on with the local history lesson; I'm just enjoying the memories -- the day of the final vote, we'd actually been hoping they would have enough numbers to stall/postpone the vote, bump it to the next legislature in the hopes of getting a few more incumbents replaced. So when the news said the vote had happened, my stomch dropped. But then they announced it was because the pro-marriage folks had counted up and seen they had the votes, and so decided not to postpone. Wee-hah! And lo, there was much rejoicing.

Also helpful was the lunatic throwing a fit about his kindergarten child having been exposed to a book that included a same-sex couple in it. That could have gone against us, of course, since corruption of the youth is half the fun. But the parents really came off as ridiculous people wanting to firmly bury everyone's heads in the sand.

In CA, I've heard that, unsurprisingly, it's largely generational. Get more young people to vote, and the amendment won't fly. That would also explain the trending numbers.


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