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Education, Not Race Determines Voting Patterns

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Education is about five times more important than race when determining whether voters in Florida favored the ban on same-sex marriage in 2008.

According to a new study by the University of Florida, the results contradict previously held assumptions that newly registered African-Americans who voted for Barack Obama were the ones to blame for voting to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.

Dan Smith, a political science professor and coauthor of the study, told the Gainesville Sun that education levels are the leading contributor to voting patterns. "There is a lot of evidence showing increased education leads to greater tolerance," he said.

The report shows that "for each additional 1% that a county's population had attained bachelor's degrees, the county showed a 1% decrease in support for the amendment. Comparatively, for each 1% increase in a county's black population, the county showed a 2/10% increase in support.

Twenty percent of Floridians above the age of 16 lacked the basic literacy skills to read a newspaper article, according to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics released in January. Only 58% of Floridian high schoolers earn a diploma in four years, compared to the national average of 69%, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Smith also agreed with a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute revealing that the National Exit Poll, which has been cited as proof that African-Americans voted in favor of such marriage bans, consistently overrepresented that population's support for California's Proposition 8. Early exit polls said that 70% of blacks voted for Proposition 8 in California. However, the NGLTF study revealed that the figures were closer to 58%, similar to numbers in polls leading up to the November 2008 vote.

Though they are often seen as a voting bloc, especially given the first viable option to elect an African-American president, black voters have differing education levels and religious observances, leading to more varied results, Smith said, adding, "I think the study shows they shouldn't be written off."

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