Last night I attended a briefing on the Prop 8 report. Written by Dave Fleisher, the report is an independent examination of the No on 8/Yes on 8 campaign. Interviews from thirty decision makers/consultants on the No on 8 campaign along with real-time polling and media reveal very interesting insights.
Dave presenting his work...
Why is this still important?
- The No on 8 campaign was the biggest effort to fight an anti-gay measure to date.
- The No on 8 campaign raised more than $43 million, setting a new, higher standard for what the LGBT community and its allies can accomplish in the face of anti-LGBT attacks.
- It is important to learn from our mistakes. Our track record on anti-gay measures isn't too good. 1 win (which was reversed two years later) and 34 losses. It makes perfect sense for the opposition to use the exact same strategy which is why we need to be prepared for the next battle.
Here are some of the common perceptions that were bandied about in the aftermath of the election...
Myth: African Americans that came out in historic numbers to support Obama were responsible for the passage of Prop 8.
Fact: We lost among African-Americans and many other groups. But we lost the most ground during the campaign among parents with kids at home, and among key parts of our base, especially white Democrats, Independents, and Greater Bay Area voters. These are groups where we moved backward. Almost three-quarters of the net movement toward the ban was among parents with kids under 18 living at home. Approximately 500,000 of them moved away from us.
Myth: Too much attention was spent on the major cities - not enough resources were devoted to more rural areas like Fresno and the interior of the state.
Although rural areas would have benefited from more support, the parts of the state that most needed additional attention were those already in our base. The geographic area that had the most voters moving away from same-sex marriage was the Greater Bay Area (San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties). Same-sex marriage lost 31 points in the Greater Bay Area during the campaign - Greater Bay Area voters opposed the ban by 33 points at the beginning, but by only 2 points at the end.
Myth: It was a close race - after all, we lost by only 600,000 votes.
Fact: While we did lose by 600,000 votes (52% to 48%), there was a lot of "wrong way voting." People that were against gay marriage voted No on Prop 8 and vice versa. Because one polling company asked two questions during their polls (i.e., How are you going to vote on Prop 8? Do you support gay marriage?) they were able to measure the extent of wrong way voting. And while both sides had wrong way voting, more people that were opposed to gay marriage had subpar reading comprehension skills (big surprise there). If all voters had correctly understood how to vote to express their opinion on same-sex marriage, Prop 8 would have passed 54% to 46%, by a 1,000,000 vote margin. To reverse the result, we start out 1,000,000 votes behind.
In mid-September both sides were in a dead heat. But between mid-September and election day, approximately 5% of voters—at least 687,000— moved to favor the ban on same-sex marriage. The result was a 10-point swing in favor of the ban.
In the final 6 weeks, the margin between Yes on 8 and No on 8 rose until it peaked on October 22 (happy birthday to me). What made the situation even worse was that absentee ballots started on October 6th and 42% of Californians voted absentee in the 2008 election.
But what accounted for the change? Why did we go from even to being behind?
Remember the Two Princes spot from Yes on 8?
This killed us.
You can actually see the erosion of support for No on Prop 8 (blue line) as the Two Princes ad gains a foothold.
The only ad that managed to stem the hemorrhage and build up support for No on 8 was this ad with Superintendent O'Connell. Around Oct 22 when the O'Connell ad has begun, the blue line begins an upward surge.
Unlike No on 8, the Yes on 8 campaign had a message that was clear and consistent: a pro-gay change is being imposed “whether you like it or not” that poses a real, immediate danger to children.
This chart is hard to see, but it displays the number of Google search results for various Prop 8 messages over time. The search term that was most prevalent was "Prop 8 schools" (blue line) and coincided with the media saturation of the Two Princes campaign. The messages that were indicative of the No on Prop 8 campaign were less prevalent - "Prop 8 Equality" (green), "Prop 8 Discrimination" (red), "Prop 8 Hate" (purple).
This is all that we covered last night, but if you want more information you can check out the report yourself.
Or you can watch this video.
Or if you like, you can come to an in-person briefing on the report by author Dave Fleischer where he'll share data that show why we lost, offer recommendations for how we can do better, and take questions and suggestions from the audience.
Tuesday, August 10th
7:00 - 9:00pm
The Village @ the LA Gay & Lesbian Center
1125 N. McCadden Pl. LA 90038