Online extra: Poll shows
Prop 8 opponents gaining ground
by Seth Hemmelgarn
New survey results released today (Thursday, September 18) indicate that opposition to banning same-sex marriage is growing.
The latest numbers from the Field Poll show that 55 percent of the state's likely voters plan to vote no on Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment on the November ballot, compared to 38 percent who would vote yes.
The current Field Poll is the fourth survey to be released since May showing that a majority of voters oppose Prop 8. In August, the Public Policy Institute of California found that 54 percent of the state's likely voters oppose Prop 8, while only 40 percent favor the anti-gay measure. At the time of the last Field Poll in July, 51 percent said they would vote no on the measure, while 42 percent indicated at the time that they would support it.
However, Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a key member of the No on 8, Equality for All coalition, expressed cautious optimism. Kors wrote in an e-mail to the Bay Area Reporter , "We are heartened by the results, but we know the other side is raising a record amount of money and will be launching a massive ad campaign designed to confuse voters about what Prop 8 is really about. When voters know the truth about Prop 8 - that it will eliminate a fundamental right from one group of Californians - they move toward opposing the measure."
In an e-mail blast, Kors wrote, " To be successful, we need to run this campaign like we are 10 points behind. The multimillion dollar television attack ads haven't even started - and we know these ads will target the 7 percent of undecided voters, along with the 10 percent of voters who won't disclose their true opposition to Prop 8 to the pollsters."
Kors also wrote that Equality California's No on 8 committee contributed $500,000 to defeat Prop 8 on Wednesday, September 17, but "that is just a drop in the bucket compared to the millions the other side is raising."
Also today, No on 8 campaign manager Dale Kelly Bankhead said in an e-mail blast that the No on 8 online community has raised over $140,000 toward their goal of raising $200,000 in 48 hours.
While she referred to the campaign's lead in the Field Poll as "encouraging," Bankhead also wrote, "it could all change in a minute if our opponents flood the airwaves without a response. As many as 20 percent of voters haven't fully made up their minds yet. The other side has bought massive amounts of TV ads, and unless we're equally competitive in reaching voters with our message, we could still lose this election."
A No on 8 spokeswoman said that the $140,000 figure did not include the $100,000 donation by actor Brad Pitt that was announced Wednesday.
Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for protectmarriage.com, did not respond to a request for comment.
Impact of rewording
The Field Poll indicates that the change by Attorney General Jerry Brown that added wording to the ballot summary influences voters to oppose the measure, especially people who were previously unaware of the measure.
Brown changed the ballot title and summary so that voters will now read that Prop 8 would change the constitution "to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry." Originally, the title had been "limit on marriage" and the summary had said that the measure would amend the constitution "to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Overall, 70 percent of voters said they had already heard something about Prop 8 prior to being interviewed, while 30 percent had not. The July Field Poll was based on the original version of the summary for Prop 8, while the September poll used the amended version.
The current Field Poll split voters into two groups, so that half were read the original description, while the others were read the amended version.
When read the amended version, 58 percent of voters with no prior awareness of Prop 8 said they would vote no, compared to 42 percent who would vote no based on the original version. Thirty percent would vote yes on the amended version, while 37 percent would support the measure the way the summary was originally worded.
Prop 8 supporters had argued in a suit filed in court that the change would bias the state's voters, but a judge said that the amended summary was accurate. The California Supreme Court ruled May 15 that same-sex couples in the state have the right to marry. Marriages began June 16.
Overall, 55 percent of those surveyed said they would vote no on the amended version, while 52 percent would vote no on the original version. The percentage of voters who would support either version was 38 percent.
Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which is an independent, media-sponsored public opinion news service, said pollsters hadn't known what effect the amended summary would have.
"I guess I had assumed there would not be much change ... I thought voters had pretty firm opinions about an issue like this. But what we found is that there is a segment of voters who are affected," he said.
While the July and September Field polls both show 7 percent of voters statewide are undecided on Prop 8, DiCamillo said some voters may not hold strongly to the opinions they offer initially.
For example, he said that in 2000 the final poll before Californians voted on Prop 22, which bans same-sex marriage and is part of the state's family code, Catholics were "about evenly divided." However, he said, "when it came time to vote, more of them voted yes, in favor of the ban," after priests and others in the church campaigned on the final weekend before the vote to encourage members to support the measure. Prop 22 passed with 61 percent of the vote.
But referring to the opposition's current favorable standing in the poll, DiCamillo said, "a lead of this magnitude is hard to overcome."
Other points in favor of opposition
In addition to opposition to the measure increasing overall, there's also less support among subgroups, the poll shows.
In the state's inland counties, 48 percent of likely voters say they would vote against Prop 8, compared to 40 percent who'd said they would oppose it in July.
Opposition among Catholics has also grown. Fifty-five percent among this group now say they would vote against the measure, while in July that number was 45 percent. Among Catholics surveyed, 36 percent now say they'd vote yes on Prop 8, compared to 44 percent in July. Evangelical Christians also appear less likely to vote yes, with 60 percent in September compared to 66 percent in July.
The data also suggest uncertainty among "nonpartisan/other" voters outside the Democratic and Republican parties. Sixteen percent of non-partisans were undecided, though that group represents a small sample base, the survey noted.
The data are based on a random sample survey of 830 likely voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The margin of error for the subsamples is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
The poll is available at www.field.com.