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New Survey Says
54% of Voters Against Prop. 8 

New Survey Says
54% of Voters Against Prop. 8 

Prop8

A new California poll on voter attitudes has turned up lucky numbers for gays and a slap for conservative opponents. Conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, this statewide survey shows that 54% of likely voters are opposed to Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to wed.

A new California poll on voter attitudes has turned up lucky numbers for gays and a slap for conservative opponents. Conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, this statewide survey shows that 54% of likely voters are opposed to Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to wed.

A Field Poll just three months ago found a hair-thin majority of Californians, 51%, in favor of same-sex marriage. That's a big jump in our favor.

Or is it?

Released on August 27, the PPIC sampling shows general voter attitudes still neck and neck concerning same-sex marriage itself, with 47% for it, 47% against.

So how come Prop. 8's not more popular?

Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the nonprofit PPIC, broke down the numbers for The Advocate.

"As always, things are complicated with public opinion," Baldassare explained. "If we compare general attitudes toward same-sex marriage today and in 2000, we're in a very different state of mind on the topic."

While most Californians opposed same-sex marriage then, they're evenly divided now.

"This general attitude of the public that we've seen has been pretty consistent over the past three years," he added.

But the difference might just be in one phrase: eliminates right.

"In terms of general attitudes, the public is deeply divided along party lines, with solid majorities of Republicans opposed, solid majorities of Democrats in favor, and independents siding with Democrats" on same-sex marriage, Baldassare noted. "[But] if we look at responses to reading the ballot title and label for Proposition 8" --which summarizes, "Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry" -- then "we see 54% of Californians opposed and 40% in favor."

Put another way: Even though 47% disagree with same-sex marriage as a concept, just 40% would actually vote to take away the right of fellow citizens to marry.

Baldassare called that finding "consistent with what we often see in public opinion, which is that people can have a point of view that's not necessarily reflected in their support for a particular initiative."

There could be several reasons why Prop. 8 doesn't arouse more enthusiasm.

"People might think, 'This [proposition] says 'eliminate,' and I didn't really know there was a right at this point that we're eliminating,' " Baldassare speculated. "Or they might say, 'This says change the constitution, and that's a big deal.' "

On the other hand, Prop. 8's supporters may be angrier and therefore more motivated to get out and vote. Among yes voters, 57% called the vote on Proposition 8 "very important." Only 44% of those who planned to vote no gave the measure so much significance.

Still, with ballot initiatives, the burden of proof is on the yes side. In any election, organizers can expect less popular support for a proposition than they might find for the idea behind it. In November's election an evenly matched electorate could be bad news for Prop. 8.

"If you go back to the general views about same-sex marriage, less than half say that they're opposed to same-sex marriage," Baldassare said. "Which means that to get over 50% of the vote, you'd have to convince some of the people who say they don't know--or some of the people who say they're in favor of same-sex marriage--to support your proposition. And that in turn raises two other questions: How is that possible? And is that likely to happen?"

Baldassare's conclusion: Prop. 8 faces an uphill climb. "That would seem to be a lot of work for the proponents to do."

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Anne Stockwell