Conflicting Polls on Gay Marriage

We now have some hard evidence that California will pass a constitutional amendment this fall to disallow gay marriage. We also have some evidence that ...
by | May 28, 2008

We now have some hard evidence that California will pass a constitutional amendment this fall to disallow gay marriage. We also have some evidence that it won't.

The Los Angeles Times conducted a poll that showed 54% of registered voters in favor of the ban, which is likely to appear on the ballot. Only 35% were opposed.

However, a new Field Poll reverses those numbers. It found 40% in favor of the amendment and 54% opposed. In that poll, for the first time ever a majority of Californians (51%) think gay marriage should be legal.

One point to consider from the Los Angeles Times:

Overall, it was leading 54% to 35% among registered voters. But because ballot measures on controversial topics often lose support during the course of a campaign, strategists typically want to start out well above the 50% support level.

"Although the amendment to reinstate the ban on same-sex marriage is winning by a small majority, this may not bode well for the measure," said Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus.

The big question is whether the regular rules of ballot measures apply to the gay marriage vote. My impression is that ballot measures often start out ahead because voters don't know much about them other than that they "sound like a good idea." Then the opposing campaigns provide contradictory information and voters get confused as to what exactly the measure will do. So they err on the side of caution and reject the proposal.

It's not clear to me whether the same process would apply to a topic on which most people already have such strong opinions. In fact, given those two polls, not much is clear to me at this point.

Previously on Ballot Box: Will California Ban Gay Marriage?

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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