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Proposition 8: What Happened

- January 10, 2009

bq. On November 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8–which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry–by a 52 to 48 percent margin. In this study, we examine three questions about this result using a new survey of California voters as well as precinct-level election returns and demographic data. First, we explore the characteristics of voters that were associated with support for and opposition to Proposition 8. We find that voters’ party identification, ideology, religiosity, and age had a much bigger impact on the vote than other voter characteristics. Second, we examine the African American vote for Proposition 87. We provide evidence showing that while African Americans supported Proposition 8 more than voters as a whole, they did not do so in the overwhelming numbers suggested by one exit poll. We show that black support for Proposition 88 can largely be explained by African Americans’ higher level of religiosity–a characteristic strongly associated with opposition to same-sex marriage. Finally, we examine how Californians’ opinions have shifted dramatically toward support of marriage equality over the short time between the Knight Initiative in 2000 and now, and explore the implications of this change for the future.

That is from a new report (pdf) by political scientists Patrick Egan and Kenneth Sherrill. (See also the SF Chronicle article.) They do an excellent job debunking the notion that black support for Prop 8 was “to blame” its passage. Apropos of this notion, Ta-Nehsi Coates writes:

bq. The problem with getting good numbers is that they invariably take time to come in. In the meantime, people are happy to run off and trumpet their half-cocked theories–unchallenged–to anyone who’s listening.

This is what I was trying to convey the other day, albeit perhaps too politely:

bq. An unfortunate aspect of politics is that history gets written rather quickly, regardless of how accurate that history is.

The Egan-Sherrill report should be the starting point of any history of Proposition 8’s success.

[Via Pollster]