Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.
The 2008 election introduced "low information voters" --- people who don't educate themselves about political issues until the waning days of a campaign. Now it appears that it was less educated people --- not blacks and Latinos, as was originally suggested in early post-election analysis --- that put Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage amendment, over the top last month in California.
A survey released last week by Public Policy Institute of California (PPI) of voters found that the true determining factor in who voted for Prop 8 was not ethnicity. It was education level:
At the same time, a higher percentage of Latinos turned out to be in favor of restricting marriage rights: 61 percent, according to the new poll, which surveyed 2,003 California residents.
The overall numbers, as determined by the poll, show that 48 percent of Californians remain opposed to marriage equality for gays and lesbians, with 47 percent in favor of restoring marriage equality.
The most important single demographic difference between supporters of the amendment and advocates of marriage parity, however, is one of education and income, according to Mark Baldassare, the president of the Public Policy Institute of California.
The article cited Baldassare as saying that 57 percent of voters with a college degree opposed the amendment, while 69 percent of voters whose education had stopped after gradating high school cast their vote in favor of rescinding marriage equality.
Said Baldassare, "Both among whites and non-whites, among college graduates and among upper-income voters, Prop. 8 lost."
Continued Baldassare, "Among both whites and non-whites, among non-college graduates and lower-income voters, Prop. 8 won.
"It seems to me that some of what we attributed to race and ethnic differences really had to do with a socioeconomic divide in regard to same-sex marriage."
In July, a Field Poll showed that Prop 8 was losing 51 percent to 42 percent, but that was before the Yes on 8 campaign began barraging voters with misleading ads. One ad claimed that if the amendment failed, churches that refused to perform gay marriages would lose their tax exempt status. Another claimed that school children would be recruited in to homosexuality by being forced to learn about gay marriage.
Never mind that the rights of churches are broadly protected by the U.S. Constitution or that is silly to think that a gay couple would want to have their wedding at church filled with homophobes. And when the state superintendent of schools appeared in an ad stating that the claim that gay marriage would be taught in schools was false, Yes on 8 responded with an ad calling him a "liberal politician.
Based on the PPI poll, it appears that the operatives behind Prop 8 made a cynical calculation that they could fool half the people this time. Sadly, but not surprisingly, they were right.