Race not deciding factor in Prop. 8 vote, study shows
Community forum discusses next steps in marriage equality
Published Thursday, 08-Jan-2009 in issue 1098
More than 70 people gathered Tuesday, as speakers from both local and national organizations discussed the latest details in the continued fight for marriage equality. The Center Advocacy Project at the San Diego LGBT Community Center hosted “What’s Next for Marriage,” a forum detailing the findings of a new study about election results and post-vote surveys released the same day.
The in-depth analysis of the Proposition 8 vote shows that party affiliation, political ideology, frequency of attending worship services and age were the driving forces behind the measure’s passage on Nov. 4.
It also shows ethnicity alone was not the strongest predictor driving the ban on same-sex marriage, as previously indicated by exit polls.
“The study was done to really get a sense of what are the demographic characteristics of those people who voted yes on 8 in California in order to inform future visibility actions and conversations to change hearts and minds in California about Prop. 8,” said Delores Jacobs, CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center.
Funded by the Haas Foundation in San Francisco – and conducted by Patrick J. Egan, assistant professor of politics and public policy at New York University, and Kenneth Sherrill, professor of political science at Hunter College, CUNY – the researches reviewed pre- and post-election polls, and precinct-level voting data from five California counties with the highest number of African-American voters.
“What they found was that it was not race and ethnicity that had the biggest impact on the election. It was instead some characteristics that will be unsurprising to many,” Jacobs said.
Through a precinct-by-precinct analysis and review of multiple other sources of data, the study also puts African-American support for Proposition 8 at no more than 59 percent, nowhere close to the 70 percent reported the night of the election.
Finally, the study shows how support for marriage equality has grown substantially across almost all California demographic groups – except Republicans.
According to the study, more than 70 percent of voters polled who were Republican, identified themselves as conservative, or who attended religious services at least weekly supported Proposition 8. Conversely, 70 percent or more of voters who were Democrat, identified themselves as liberal, or who rarely attended religious services opposed the measure. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of voters 65 or older supported Proposition 8, while majorities under 65 opposed the marriage ban.
After taking into account the religious service attendance, support for Proposition 8 among African Americans and Latinos was not significantly different than other groups.
The findings show the level of support for Proposition 8 among African Americans was nowhere close to the national exit poll 70 percent figure.
The study looked at pre- and post-election polls from five California counties with the highest African-American populations – Alameda (Oakland), Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco. Precinct-level analysis found many precincts with few black voters supported Proposition 8 at levels just as high as – or higher than –those with many black voters. Based on this, it concludes the level of African-American support for Proposition 8 was in the range of 57-59 percent.
Smaller studies found that women were more inclined to vote against Proposition 8 than men. Also, the higher someone’s education, the more likely they were to oppose the ballot measure.
So what does this tell marriage equality activists?
“It tells us who we need to have conversations with,” Jacobs said. “We clearly need to have some conversations with those who identify as Republican, those who identify as conservative, and those who are somewhat older.”
Final election results within San Diego County showed in the city of San Diego a majority of people voted “no” on Proposition 8.
But this did not hold true for some of the larger unincorporated areas.
The proposition passed in almost every assembly district and almost every senatorial district with the exception of Senate District 39, according to election results.
District 39 stretches east-west from Spring Valley to the Pacific Ocean, and north-south from Del Mar to Downtown San Diego.
In Del Mar, Encinitas and Solana Beach, Proposition 8 was defeated. It was also defeated in five –of the eight – city council districts, passing in District’s 4 (South Bay), 5 (Rancho Bernardo) and 8 (South Bay).
“This is not surprising,” Jacobs said.
Many people who attended the forum brought up concerns the GLBT community did not create a strong enough visible presence during the election, which some believe may have ultimately contributed to the passing of Proposition 8.
San Diego based attorney Mattheus E. Stephens disagreed.
“Moving forward it is critical to understand that visibility is created on the ground before an election,” Stephens said, noting the community should be clearer about how this work gets done.
“It doesn’t get done, or shouldn’t in the context of a campaign,” he said.
This work is done and visibility is created on a day to day basis, according to Stephens.
“It is how we live our lives and who we talk to. It doesn’t get done in a 30 second sound-bite. It’s critically important moving forward that we all know and we all understand that we should not be self critical about the visibility created in the campaign. That in my view is a non-issue.”
Passed on the federal level on Sept. 21, 1996, DOMA defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for the purposes of all federal laws, and provides that states need not recognize a marriage from another state if it is between persons of the same sex.
On Dec. 19, 2008, California Attorney General Jerry Brown asked the California Supreme Court to declare Proposition 8 invalid, explaining that the ballot measure is fatally defective because the government lacks the compelling grounds necessary to deprive “people of the right to marry, an aspect of liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the California Constitution.
Since the election, two grassroots organizations – San Diego Equality Campaign (SDEC) and San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME) – have emerged in San Diego County, with the purpose of creating an ever-present, visible GLBT community. Their next main event, a March for Marriage Equality, asks community members and allies to unite and march as a means of calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Locally, the March for Marriage Equality and the Unite to Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will take place on Saturday, Jan. 10, with a pre-rally at 10 a.m. in front of the County Administration Building. The march will step-off at 11 a.m. and go through Downtown and past the Manchester Grand Hyatt.