The campaign chronology is presented two ways:

·         In charts that give bullet descriptions of key events in chronological order, along with poll findings on the same or overlapping dates (in Appendix D).

·         In text that gives a more complete list of events and a fuller description of events, starting immediately below (here in Appendix C).

Before May 2008

June 2007. The predecessor committee to the No on 8 campaign, Equality for All, hires Steve Smith of Dewey Square as its general consultant. Smith’s experience included serving as the lead consultant for campaigns that defeated anti-choice parental notification ballot measures in 2005 and 2006. He had run campaigns in California for more than twenty-five years. In his involvement with more than a dozen initiative campaigns, he indicated he had never lost a “No” campaign.

At this time, the campaign committee is led by an executive committee (EC) that includes a variety of people sharing decision-making responsibility. A full list of EC members is included in Appendix M. Among those significantly engaged are four LGBT organizational executive directors participating in both decision making and fundraising: Geoff Kors, Equality California; Lorri L. Jean, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center; Kate Kendell, the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Dr. Delores Jacobs, the San Diego LGBT Community Center. When the campaign committee expanded closer to Election Day in late August 2008, these four, as well as Maya Harris, then of the ACLU of Southern California, and Andy Wong, Founder and former director of API Equality, became the core members of a “miniEC.” Maya Harris took a new job in New York in autumn 2008, but the other five remained central in decision making until late September. Heather Carrigan of the ACLU of Southern California replaced Maya Harris on the miniEC. In addition, Michael Fleming, executive director of the Bohnett Foundation, became a member of the miniEC and served as a liaison to national LGBT major donors.

Mid-February through early April 2008. To dissuade voters from signing the petition to qualify Prop 8 for the ballot and educate voters about the intention of the measure, the core group of LGBT and allied activists who will later have responsibility for day-to-day running of the No on 8 field campaign run a Decline-to-Sign” campaign across the state.

As May 2008 approaches. The No on 8 campaign committee hires Lake Research as its polling firm, with Celinda Lake the lead pollster.

Steve Smith, in consultation with the executive committee, hires Ogilvy as the campaign media consultant. Led by Maggie Linden, Ogilvy is in charge of creating, producing, and buying TV and radio ads, and also overseeing and placing earned media. Smith and Linden previously worked together on the parental notification ballot measures.

Smith and a committee hire (a) Black Rock to create the Web site and manage new media communications and fundraising, (b) initial lead fundraising consultants Kimberly Ray (who then hired Marjan Philhour and others), (c) Eric Jaye of Storefront Media to do direct mail, and (d) Phyllis Watts, a psychologist and principal in Wild Swan, to observe and maximize learning from the polling and focus groups.

Before May begins. Yes on 8 hires Schubert Flint as their lead consulting firm in charge of creating and producing TV and radio ads along with other paid campaign communications. Yes on 8 makes its first payment to Schubert Flint on June 13 (as noted in Appendix G, data from the California Secretary of State).

May and June 2008

May 15. The California State Supreme Court rules that the California marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Late May. Polling on Prop 8 is wildly contradictory.

The first Field Poll conducted May 17–26 shows No on 8 with a 14-point lead: 54% to 40%, with 6% undecided.

The LA Times poll conducted May 20–21 shows Yes on 8 with a 16-point lead: 53% to 37%, with 9% undecided.

The No on 8 campaign's internal polling by Lake Research conducted May 19–27 shows Yes on 8 ahead by 8 points: 50% to 42%, with 8% undecided.

In its May poll, Lake Research had voters rate a variety of possible campaign “messengers” on the issue of same-sex marriage. Of fourteen messengers tested, “gay couples” test best: 58% of voters had “some” trust and 27% had “a great deal” of trust. No other messenger cracked 50%. Runner-up was “parents of gay people” in whom 49% of voters had “some” trust and 19% had “a great deal” of trust. “Local religious leaders” came in third, with 47% and 17%.

May. The campaign committee hires Dale Kelly Bankhead as campaign manager. She begins work in June.

June 2. Prop 8 qualifies for the ballot. The California Secretary of State finds that at least 694,354 of the 1,055,000 signatures turned in by Yes on 8 are valid.  

Mid-June. The No on 8 campaign committee approves a document for potential major donors titled “Equality for All . . . A Road Map to Victory.” To make the case that No on 8 can prevail, it argues that Yes on 8 faces an uphill climb because it currently fails to meet the three criteria that all California ballot measure proponents need to meet to win:

·         That [polling shows that] the measure will pass with 60% of the vote

·         That the yes-to-no ratio is 2 to 1

·         That the strong support for the measure is at least 40%”

The “Road Map” says that based on all polling “by the above three standards, the measure is clearly vulnerable” and that “all the available current research makes it clear that we can defeat this proposal, but it will not be easy.”

Opposition Strategy and Message

Based on polling, the “Road Map” predicts that the opposition's “strongest argument is that the court has overridden the will of the people” and that “interestingly, other messages the opponents have used in other states have less salience in California . . . but some would say that this is NOT [caps in original] a surprise to us, we are, in fact, Californians!” Among the Yes on 8 messages to which this refers—messages that tested relatively poorly in the Lake Research polling—was the issue of kids and schools. 

Money and Paid Media

“All of the pieces are in place [for No on 8] to win except the money,” states the plan. Its proposed $21 million budget includes $13.9 million for paid TV advertising.

The full text of the “Road Map” is reproduced in Appendix Q.

June 16. Same-sex marriages begin. The campaign and other pro-marriage groups generate extensive coverage of gay and lesbian weddings in a wide array of major media outlets.

Starting June 18. No on 8 conducts its first focus groups. Focus group research continues on and off until at least October 8.

By the end of June. Schubert Flint “reconfirmed in our early focus groups our own views that Californians had a tolerant opinion of gays. But there were limits to the degree of tolerance that Californians would afford the gay community. They would entertain allowing gay marriage, but not if doing so had significant implications for the rest of society.”

This is their own self-description of what they learned, provided in a postelection article titled “Passing Prop 8” for Politics magazine penned by Schubert & Flint available at

June 30. Fundraising progress reported at this point shows that both sides have raised roughly equal amounts of money. No has raised $2.6 million and has $1.4 million cash on hand. Yes has raised $2.7 million and has $350,000 cash on hand.

July and August 2008

July 8–14. A second Field poll shows the contest narrowing slightly, but with No on 8 still 9 points ahead, 51% to 42%, with 7% undecided.

July 8–17. Both sides submit ballot pamphlet arguments and rebuttals. This is the first public indication that one of the arguments the Yes side is using is that unless Prop 8 is approved, children will be taught about gay marriage in schools.

July 10–31. Five donors give a total of $2.25 million to No on 8. Individual gifts range from $250,000 to $1 million.

July 29. No on 8 files a lawsuit challenging Yes on 8’s ballot pamphlet argument that unless Prop 8 is approved, teachers would be required to teach students about same-sex marriage in schools.

From July through September. Yes on 8 raises $22 million; it says that upward of 40% came from members of the LDS (Mormon) Church.

August 8. California Superior Court hands down several rulings. The court approves the ballot title and description drafted by Attorney General Jerry Brown, language that helps the No side at least initially in polling. Both sides and all pollsters now know the exact ballot language. From here on, all polls incorporate the ballot language into their horse race question, the question that asks voters how they intend to vote on Prop 8.

The court also rules that Yes on 8 may not say in the ballot pamphlet that without Prop 8, teachers will be “required” to teach same-sex marriage. But the court allows them to say that teachers “could” or “may” teach children about the topic.

August. After meeting its financial goals for July, No on 8 fundraising stalls in August.

August 11–17. No on 8's internal polling by Lake Research offers both a pessimistic and an optimistic finding in the same poll. The downside is that Lake’s original version of the horse race question shows No behind by a wider margin than ever–20 points. Yes leads 57% to 37%, with 6% undecided. On the upside, the new ballot language approved by the court helps No fare better with voters. Lake shows that when voters are read the new ballot language word for word, No is still behind but only by 9 points: 51% to 42%, with 6% undecided.

August 12–19. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) conducts a new poll that, like the Field poll, shows No on 8 with a wide lead: 54% to 40% with 6% undecided. The vast majority of LGBT people in California and nationwide only know the public polling, which shows No with a commanding lead. Only people inside the No on 8 campaign know that its internal polling by Lake Research shows us behind. Concerned about the ongoing disparity between the public polling by Field and PPIC that shows No on 8 with a large lead, and the internal polling by Lake, the No on 8 campaign asks the general consultant to hire a second pollster. David Binder Associates is retained to conduct a one-time “over-the-shoulder” poll in early September to see if its findings shed light on the other polls’ vastly different results.

August. Throughout this month, No on 8 focus group participants are exposed to storyboards, drawings depicting some of the ideas for ads, including those that became “Thorons” (parents talking about their lesbian daughter) and “Conversation” (two women talking, one expressing doubts about same-sex marriage). They do not see any actual or dummy ads; none have yet been produced.

August. Chad Griffin and Dennis Herrera join forces with Equality for All. Their independent campaign committee to defeat Prop 8, Californians Against Eliminating Basic Rights had raised $141,050 by the start of August and would go on to raise a total of $1.5 million.

September 2008

September 2–16. In this time period, four polls are conducted. All show No on 8 ahead, but by very different margins.

Lake Research’s No on 8's internal polling shows No on 8 ahead by 3 points: 47% to 44%, with 8% undecided (poll conducted September 8–11). This is within the margin of error, essentially showing the contest even. This is the first time a Lake poll has shown No ahead or even. Lake also finds strength of support for both sides identical at 37% each. While only 8% self-identify as undecided, an additional 18% are soft supporters, potentially moveable. This is consistent with Lake’s findings since May.

David Binder Associates’ No on 8's backup internal polling shows No on 8 up by 10 points: 52% to 42%, with 6% undecided (September 2–4).

The Field Poll shows No on 8 ahead by 17 points: 55% to 38%, with 7% undecided (September 5–14).

PPIC shows No on 8 ahead by 14 points: 55% to 41%, with 4% undecided (September 9–16).

Only the Field and PPIC poll results are publicly known.

September 9. By calling stations around the state, No on 8 learns that Yes on 8 has begun massive purchase of cable TV time. The Yes ads will begin September 29.

September 15. By this time, No on 8’s research and message consultants—Lake Research and Wild Swan—have conducted three surveys, twelve focus groups, and six triads (mini–focus groups of three people each). Their recommendation is that campaign communications would be “more successful [if they were] to send the emotional cues in other ways—via surrogates, loved ones” rather than have gay or lesbian couples speak directly.

September 22. TV advertising begins. No on 8 goes on TV first. It airs the “Thorons” ad, featuring parents talking about their gay daughter. The initial plan is for No on 8 to buy 500 points per week in key media markets including LA, San Francisco, San Diego, and Sacramento, but the campaign doesn't have the money. The general consultant “shaves” the buy, reducing it below 500 points in six markets and cutting it to a particularly low level in LA, the most expensive media market. The result is that as a practical matter the ad won’t register in a meaningful way with voters in LA the first week. See Appendix E for all the details on the size of the media buy each week in each media market.

September 22—24. Lake Research polling shows No on 8 ahead by 1 point: 45% to 44%, with 11% undecided. This is within the margin of error—essentially a dead heat—and the last time the Lake poll numbers show No on 8 ahead.

September 23. The LA Times reports that Yes on 8 is $5 million ahead of No on 8 in fundraising.

September 29. The No on 8 campaign changes decision making and some key staffing in the campaign. Patrick Guerriero takes a leave from the Gill Action Fund to take over No on 8 campaign management and decision making, his official titles are president of the Board of Equality for All and campaign director. He replaces many of the consultants and some staff. The former decision makers—the general consultant, the first campaign manager, and the most active members of the campaign executive committee—are largely moved to the sidelines. In the next ten days, Guerriero recruits new decision-making and implementation teams based in San Francisco. The new No on 8 team comes to include Nick Donatiello, Adam Freed, and Joe Rodota. Others newly recruited include Mark Armour (who creates the next three major TV ads), Rick Claussen, Guy Cecil, Marc Solomon, Gale Kauffman, and Mary Breslauer. In addition, Marty Rouse and Thalia Zepatos get involved on a full-time basis; Marty had previously served as a member of the campaign and then the executive committees, and Thalia had served as a member of the campaign committee before moving out of state. Eric Jaye continues in charge of direct mail. The new team also has Binder Associates return to do daily tracking polling from October 18 through November 4.

September 29. No on 8 continues airing “Thorons” in six media markets and adds a seventh by placing a small buy in Palm Springs. By October 7, however, the ad still hadn’t broken 500 GRPs per week in any media market.

September 29–October 1. Lake Research begins daily tracking polling for No on 8. The first track, covering these three days, shows No on 8 behind by 4 points: 47% to 43%, with 10% undecided.

September 29. Yes on 8 is on the air with its first ad, “Newsom.” In it, the San Francisco Mayor is seen saying that marriage for gay and lesbian couples is coming “whether you like it or not.” The ad goes up with a significant buy of more than 500 GRPs in Santa Barbara, San Diego, Sacramento, Monterey, Fresno, and Chico-Redding, and with a slightly smaller buy in San Diego and Los Angeles. For more details on the Yes on 8 media buy see Appendix E.

September 30. Both sides report on their fundraising. Yes on 8 is $10 million ahead in cash on hand—twice as far ahead as the LA Times had reported a week ago. No has raised $16 million and has $2 million on hand. Yes has raised $25.7 million and has $12.8 million on hand.

Throughout September and October. As a result of an intensive outreach effort by No on 8 to editorial boards, ninety-two newspapers, including every major newspaper in California, writes an editorial recommending a No vote on Prop 8. The full list is in Appendix F.

October 2008

Early in October. A team of twenty high-level IT and Web experts volunteer to vastly overhaul and redesign the No on 8 Web presence. They add substantial functionality to the Web site and track the ways in which supporters find the Web site so the campaign could within hours determine what was working and what wasn’t. Many in the campaign believe that the combined effect of this array of changes importantly contributed to the dramatic improvement in No on 8’s online fundraising in the final three weeks of the campaign.

October 5–7. With “Newsom” on the air a full week, Lake tracking polling shows an immediate reaction: the number of refusals on the horse race question jumps from 1% to 5%. Yes now has a new 9-point lead, 45% to 36%, not because Yes has more voters immediately on its side—it actually slipped 2 points from 47% to 45% (within the margin of error)—but because 2% of Yes voters and 7% of No voters have moved to refusal status or are undecided.

October 5–9. No on 8’s “Thorons” ad peaks: 22% of voters volunteer in open-ended questions that they remember it. At the same time, Yes on 8’s “Newsom” ad peaks: 14% volunteer that they remember it.

October 6. Absentee voting begins. Ultimately, 42% of all California voters (over 5.7 million) cast their ballot before the November 4 Election Day. Effectively, October 6 is the first of twenty-nine consecutive Election Days. Or another way of looking at it: as of October 6, Election Day has begun.

October 6. No on 8 mostly replaces “Thorons” with a new ad, “Conversation,” that has two women talking about how they’ll vote, with one expressing reservations about same-sex marriage. The two ads are in rotation in most markets, 20% “Thorons” and 80% “Conversation.”

October 6. Yes on 8 adds a new ad, “Princes,” to its buy. The most frequently broadcast ad of the entire campaign, it features a young girl telling her mother that she has learned in school that a boy can marry a boy, and she can marry a girl. “Princes” first goes on the air in Spanish. Yes on 8 also continues the “Newsom” ad, but voter recollection of it fades quickly once “Princes” begins to air.

October 6. No on 8 mails “Know,” its first piece sent to a large number of probable absentee voters. See Appendix N for the No on 8 mail pieces.

October 7. The No on 8 executive committee and new campaign manager publicly disclose in a conference call with reporters that its own internal polling shows that “the measure would pass by four points.” (LA Times, October 8; San Jose Mercury News, October 7) The Lake tracking polling at this point shows us down 46% to 36% with 19% undecided. On the conference call, No on 8 campaign representatives attributed the result to fewer television ads due to the No on 8 campaign falling behind in fundraising (LA Times article, October 8).

October 8. Yes on 8 begins airing “Princes” in English.

October 8–11. Lake tracking polling shows that the number of undecided voters has returned to 10%. In three days, most who became undecided after exposure to “Princes” have trickled back to where they were previously, but some of them have moved to Yes. The net result: Yes now has 49%, just short of the 50% it needs to win. No has 40%. See Finding 2 for a full discussion of this topic.

October 8–20. Yes on 8 continues “Newsom” and “Princes” and adds “Massachusetts.” The last says that teaching kids about same-sex marriage in schools “has already happened in Massachusetts” (where marriage is legal) and features a couple that claims their child was exposed to information against their wishes.

October 10. No on 8 drops “Conversation” three days after it began; it aired so briefly that few voters are likely to have seen or remembered it. “Thorons” is on the air in a tiny buy. The main ad up, “Lies,” does not directly rebut the charge of “Princes” that young kids will be taught about same-sex marriage in schools; the buy is small and it’s viewed as a placeholder, better than going dark on TV. It buys a little time as the No campaign decides whether and how to respond to “Princes.”

October 10. The lesbian wedding field trip news story—where a group of students go on a field trip to see a favorite teacher get married to her lesbian partner—breaks in the LA Times, and a day later in the San Francisco Chronicle (headline: “Class surprises lesbian teacher on wedding day”). Fourteen days later, the field trip becomes the subject of Yes on 8’s follow-up ad to “Princes.”

October 11–13. Lake tracking polling shows Yes on 8 reaching 50% support for the first time since voting began on October 6. Yes is ahead 50% to 38%, with 12% undecided. Lake tracking polling shows that Yes remains at 50%, 51%, or 52% every day from now until October 28.

October 12–19. A new PPIC poll shows No on 8 ahead by 8 points: 52% to 44%, with 4% undecided. This is 6 points closer than their last poll in early September; since that time, PPIC shows that Yes has picked up 3 points and No has declined 3 points.

October 14. No on 8 replaces “Lies” with “Unfair” and airs it with a $3.6 million buy. This ad, like its predecessor, does not directly respond to the charges in “Princes.” Instead, it is intended to pivot—to refocus—No on 8 as a “no” campaign, rather than a campaign affirmatively supporting the idea of same-sex marriage. Like “no” ads in other California campaigns on other issues, the ad is stark, dark, and the word “no” appears on the screen for the entire duration of the ad. This is the first No on 8 ad aired created and produced by Mark Armour, of Armour Griffin Media Group. Ogilvy is relieved of the responsibility to create or produce No on 8 ads.

October 14–16. In each tracking poll, Lake also asks voters a second, clarifying question to determine their actual voting intention. Lake starts out “Just to Be Clear” and uses plain language, not the ballot language, to ask voters if they wished to eliminate or allow marriage for gay and lesbian couples. From this tracking poll through the final tracking poll October 30, Yes is 10 points or more ahead on the Be Clear question, and at 50% or above.

October 15. The Advocate reports Patrick Guerriero’s role as the new head of No on 8, describing him as the campaign’s new director.

Mid-October. No on 8 replaces Ogilvy with Perry Communications to handle earned media for the final twelve to twenty days. Ogilvy continues to handle media buying; substantive media buy decisions are made daily by the new decision-making team.

October 18. No on 8 has closed much of the fundraising gap but is still behind. No has raised $27 million and has $4 million cash on hand. Yes has raised $28.2 million and has $7.2 million cash on hand. Major donor fundraising has improved for No on 8, but the huge change is the performance of online fundraising. After raising $1 million total prior to October, online fundraising is so robust in October that key decision makers believe it ultimately brought in $17 million, almost half the money raised by the campaign. Data reported to the Secretary of State does not distinguish online donations from others, but it does show that gifts of $100 or less to the No on 8 campaign totaled $3,320,000 from October 1 through Election Day. This is consistent with the idea that online fundraising is a significant factor contributing to the turnaround in No on 8’s fundraising, along with public disclosure that the No campaign is in danger of losing and the proximity of Election Day are also likely motivating many people to donate.

October 18–20. David Binder Associates begins daily tracking polling to supplement the daily tracking by Lake. Binder Associates’ tracking polling for these three days shows No ahead by 3 points: 48% to 45%, with 7% undecided. This is within the margin of error and essentially shows a dead heat. Lake tracking polling for these same days shows Yes ahead 52% to 38%, with 11% undecided.

October 18–28. The new Field Poll shows No on 8 ahead by 5 points: 49% to 44%, with 7% undecided. The last Field Poll, in early September, had No ahead by 17 points. Since then, No has declined 6 points, and Yes has picked up 6 points.

October 19. The Executive Committee insists that the campaign create and air an ad that directly rebuts “Princes.” Jack O’Connell is discussed as an option to be a spokesperson in that ad. The manager agrees and O’Connell is secured.

October 19–21. No on 8 is given numbers from an independent private poll that shows No ahead by 5 points: 51% to 46%, with 3% undecided.

October 20–22. David Binder Associates’ tracking polling shows Yes ahead by 2 points: 48% to 46%, with 6% undecided. Binder Associates shows Yes in the lead and at 48% and 49% until October 23–26, when it slips a little. Throughout the campaign, Binder Associates polling never shows Yes at 50% or above.

October 22. Sixteen days after Yes first aired “Princes,” No on 8 airs “O’Connell,” its first ad to directly rebut “Princes.” In it, State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell says that kids won’t be taught about same-sex marriage in schools. No’s poll numbers have continued to slide with “Princes” unanswered by “Unfair.”

The week of October 22. For the first time since Yes on 8 went on the air, No on 8 achieves spending parity on TV.

October 22–25. Yes on 8 begins to air “Field Trip” on October 24. Just like “Princes,” it focuses on the issue of kids and schools. “Field Trip” uses the specific example of a class in San Francisco that attended a lesbian wedding as a cautionary tale of what will happen in classrooms unless Prop 8 passes. “Field Trip” also directly rebuts “O’Connell” and aims to impeach its credibility; Yes has placed this ad on the air within forty-eight hours of “O’Connell” first airing. Lake tracking polling shows that 30% to 36% of voters volunteer in open-ended questions that they remember “Princes” and “Field Trip” and the issue of kids and schools as central to the debate on Prop 8.

October 24. No on 8 mails a piece of literature, “Know” to a large number of likely Election Day voters; this is the same piece it sent probable absentee voters on October 6. No on 8 also mails a different piece, “Know 2,” to an additional universe of voters.

October 26–28. Binder Associates’ tracking polling shows that 49% of voters agree that “Prop 8 will stop schools from teaching children about gay marriage.”

October 27. No on 8 begins to air a new ad, “No for Latinos,” in both English and Spanish. 

October 28. No on 8 begins to air a new ad, “Feinstein,” featuring the U.S. senator. This ad is created and produced by Mark Armour.

October 28 through Election Day. “Field Trip” dominates the Yes on 8 TV buy, but Yes also airs a new ad, “Closer,” as well as “Field Trip” in Spanish.

October 28. No on 8 mails “Heart” to a large number of likely Election Day voters. The California Labor Federation also mails “Real” to a universe of voters urging them to vote No on 8.

October 29 through Election Day. No on 8 dominates paid TV advertising in the final week, outspending Yes by a wide margin.

October 29 through Election Day. Binder Associates’ tracking polling shows No in the lead and holding at 50% throughout this period. Binder Associates has Yes fluctuating at 47%, 48%, and 49%. All are within the margin of error, essentially showing a dead heat. Independent private polling similarly shows a dead heat. Lake’s last tracking poll, October 28–30, shows a different situation: Yes with an 8-point lead: 49% to 41%, with 10% undecided.


October 30. No on 8 begins to air a new ad, “Internment” in a large statewide buy. This ad is the largest part of No’s TV buy through Election Day. No on 8 continues to air “Feinstein” in a 30% to 70% rotation with “Internment,” as well as running other ads in small buys.

October 30. The California Labor Federation mails another piece, “Vote,” to a large number of voters.


November 1. No on 8 replaces “Feinstein” with “Obama,” essentially a recut version of “Feinstein” that begins with still photos of then-presidential-candidate Obama and Gov. Schwarzenegger endorsing a No vote on 8. This ad was created and produced by Mark Armour.

November 1–4. No on 8 airs, in smaller buys, several new ads: “I’m a Mom,” “Parents,” “PC versus Mac,” and “Ellen.” The last was created by Ellen DeGeneres and features her speaking directly to the camera.

November 4. Election Day. For election results, see Appendix B.