Colman Domingo
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Prop. 8 Exit
Polling of African-Americans Way Off, Experts Say

Prop. 8 Exit
            Polling of African-Americans Way Off, Experts Say

A new study on California’s
Proposition 8 voting trends released Tuesday found
that far fewer African-Americans voted to pass the gay
marriage ban than the 70% suggested by exit polling and
concluded that race was not the most significant factor
affecting people’s vote for or against marriage
equality.

After conducting
in-depth analysis of election returns from five key
California counties and using census data to estimate the
racial makeup of the voters in those counties,
researchers found that between 57% and 59% of
African-Americans voted in favor of Proposition 8, which
amended the state's constitution to prohibit same-sex
marriage.

"This is a far
cry from the [National Exit Poll] estimate,” said
Kenneth Sherrill of Hunter College, one of the lead authors
of the study.

Sherrill also
noted that four pre-election polls put black support for
the antigay ballot initiative anywhere between 41% and 58%.
“While that’s quite a range, none
venture above 58%,” he said. “On this
basis alone, the NEP estimate of 70% would appear to
be an outlier.”

A comparison of
the Prop. 8 data with that of polling after the Knight
Initiative, a 2000 measure that prohibited gay marriage in
California by statute (rather than constitutional
amendment), showed overall movement toward support of
marriage equality across almost every demographic group
“with the only holdouts being Republicans,
conservatives, and those born before World War
II,” said Patrick Egan of New York University,
another lead author of the report. “Although
Proposition 8 was victorious, I think the real story
is that California voters have nevertheless shifted
dramatically toward support for same-sex marriage.”
In fact, the study found support for marriage equality
increasing in nearly every demographic group by about
one percent each year since 2000.

Egan and Sherrill
also concluded that age, religiosity, party
identification, and ideology had more of an effect on
whether voters backed Prop. 8 than any other
factors. For instance, the rate of support for the
initiative among African Americans and whites was
nearly the same for those who attended church services
regularly.

Perhaps
surprisingly, the study also revealed that partisanship and
ideology trumped the fact of knowing someone who is openly
LGBT. About two-thirds of the state’s
self-identified conservatives knew someone who was gay
and about 4 out of five of them voted for the measure
– the same exact ratio of conservatives who
voted for Prop. 8 but didn’t know an openly
LGBT person. Republicans demonstrated a similar pattern,
with about four out of five of them voting to pass the
ban regardless of whether they knew anyone who was out
or not.

“This
leads us to the conclusion that at least in terms of
marriage equality, opposition to our rights
isn’t personal, it’s ideological and
partisan,” Sherrill said. Though he called
the resistance among Republicans and
conservatives "implacable," Sherrill added,
"Mitigating that opposition is the fact that California is
becoming less Republican and less conservative. In
fact, hard-core opposition to such things as gay
marriage may be costing Republicans the support of
younger voters." (Kerry Eleveld, Advocate.com)

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