Lake Research attempted to gauge the potential impact of Yes on 8 making an argument about kids. But their findings understated the effect that the kids argument actually had on voters once it was on the air in the “Princes” ad.

Specifically, in polls that Lake Research conducted in May, July, and August 2008, it included questions testing four variations of the kids argument:

·         The Kids (tested in May): “It is getting harder and harder to raise kids these days, and this decision [the court decision] only makes it worse. That is why we need a Constitutional Amendment. Children are too impressionable. Now, we will be forced to discuss these issues with them at too early an age. That might even lead some of them to think that homosexuality is okay, and they may experiment to see if they are gay.” (voters were asked if this was “convincing” or “not convincing”)

·         Confuse Kids (tested in July): “It is fine for people to be together and do what they want in their private lives, but their public displays and marriages send inappropriate and confusing messages to our children. It is better for children to be raised by a mother and a father. We should not encourage more adoption by gay couples. The children will be teased at school. Public gay marriage is bad for our children.” (“convincing” or “not convincing”)

·         Children Need Both (tested in July and August): “Marriage is a union of husband and wife. The people of California do not want the government teaching our children and grandchildren that our deeply cherished ideals of marriage are out of date and that opposition to gay marriage is just bigotry and discrimination. Marriage is about bringing together men and women so children have both mothers and fathers.” (“convincing” or “not convincing”)

·         Kids Split Sample (tested in August): “Some/other people say we should vote yes on Prop 8. Voting yes will ensure that children—as young as kindergarten—will not be required to be taught, even against the will of their parents, that gay marriage and traditional marriage are the same, but that is what will happen if we don’t put this definition in our constitution.” (After hearing this and an argument for voting no, voters were asked which argument they found “more convincing” and answers were tallied as “yes”, “no”, and “neither or both.”)

In each poll, the various arguments about kids were tested as part of a larger battery of messages that the Yes on 8 campaign might consider. Most of the time, with one exception, the kids arguments failed to stand out. The polling suggested that most variations on the kids argument, including the ones most similar to “Princes,” did not pose the strongest threat to the No on 8 campaign; the kids-related arguments did not test as well as other non-kids-related arguments available to Yes on 8.

In May, “The Kids” argument ranked as the least convincing argument tested. Among all likely voters, it was fourth out of four, 44% calling it “convincing” and 53% calling it “unconvincing.” Among racial and ethnic subgroups, it performed better but still ranked in last place.  Among African-American likely voters, it was tied for last, 55% called it “convincing” while 42% found it “unconvincing.” Among Latino and Asian likely voters, the argument ranked last in persuasive power compared to the other arguments tested, with 51% and 52% respectively calling it “convincing” and 48% and 40% calling it “unconvincing.”

In July, the “Confuse Kids” argument ranked fourth out of five arguments tested. Among all likely voters and among Latino likely voters, it was fourth, with 58% of all likely voters and 63% of Latino likely voters calling it “convincing.” Among likely voters undecided about how they were voting on Prop 8, this argument ranked last, fifth out of five, with 49% calling it “convincing.” Among a universe of voters Lake felt was potentially persuadable—those who answered that they didn’t favor gay marriage but found it acceptable—“Confuse Kids” was fourth out of five, with 62% calling it “convincing.” Among our base voters—those who favored gay marriage—“Confuse Kids” was fifth out of five, with only 16% calling it “convincing.”

The “Children Both” argument was the exception, the kids-related argument that tested strongly. Unlike the other kids arguments, however, this argument is very much focused on marriage, and the idea that marriage is about one man and one woman; kids are brought up only as doing better if they grow up with a mother and a father, a different point than the one front and center in “Princes.” “Children Both” was the strongest of five arguments in July and the strongest of three arguments in August among all likely voters. It was ranked as “convincing” by 64% to 35% in July and 59% to 39% in August. Likewise, the argument was the strongest of five in July among Latino likely voters (74% to 25%) and second strongest in July among undecided likely voters (68% to 32%). [ But this argument performed much less well with the Lake persuadable voters and with our base; with both, the argument was third out of three in the August polling, with 61% of the persuadables and only 25% of the base finding it “convincing.”

The August test of a reworded version of “The Kids” argument—put up against two different possible counterarguments by No on 8—showed that both No counterarguments bested the kids-based argument. Among likely voters, one response by No—a more forceful and flat denial of the Yes charges—had No coming out ahead as “more convincing” by 41% to 35%, with 25% calling neither or both “more convincing.” The other response by No also had No ahead as “more convincing” by 39% to 36%, with 24% saying neither or both was “more convincing.”

For the full text of all arguments tested, see below.

One warning sign in all of the above is that the various kids arguments, even when they ranked lower than other arguments, still were usually deemed convincing by a majority of the likely voters overall and in almost every subcategory. The kids arguments therefore did demonstrate potential to have power with the electorate.

Further, likely voters found Yes on 8’s arguments significantly stronger than No on 8’s across the board, itself a warning to the No on 8 campaign that it was the underdog.

Even with the polling as the only information available, it therefore would have been prudent for the No on 8 consultants to prepare for kids attacks. But it’s also fair for the consultants to have anticipated a kids attack to be less likely than other possible attacks. To recognize the extraordinarily high likelihood of the kids attacks, the No on 8 campaign consultants would also have had to consider the historical experience. With that said, some polling efforts have fared better at gauging the power of the kids argument immediately after one of these ballot measure votes. Third Way, polling in Maine after the passage of Measure 1, found that 63% of voters in the moveable middle thought it was likely that schools would teach about homosexuality if Measure 1 failed, 74% were concerned about schools teaching homosexuality, 40% thought kids would be more likely to experiment with homosexuality, and 58% were concerned about that possibility.

Full Text of Arguments Tested

May 19–27. % of those polled that agree with the statement…

1. Regardless of how I feel about gay marriage, people should not be treated unfairly under the laws of our state. 78%

2. Our constitution should guarantee the same rights to all citizens, and should not single out one group to be treated differently. 73%

3. Marriage strengthens families and communities. We should support committed couples who want to accept the responsibility that comes with marriage. 72%

4. I may not agree with gay marriage, but I think government should stay out of people’s personal lives. 69%

5. Our constitution should guarantee the same rights to all citizens, and should not single out one group for discrimination. 66%

May 19–27. % of those polled that find the statement convincing…

1. The government has no business telling people who can and cannot get married, just like it is no business of the government to tell people what they can read, watch on TV, or do in the privacy of their own homes. We do not need a constitutional amendment that gives the government more say in our private lives. 57%

2. The state supreme court has said that our constitution protects all of us equally—gay or straight. People have the right to love who they love and now the right to marry who they want to marry. Can you imagine your neighbor voting on who you can marry or on your rights? We can disagree on this issue, but it is simply wrong to vote on other people’s fundamental rights. 55%

3. The court’s decision preserves equality in California. The court ruled that gay and lesbian couples in California have the same ability to marry as other couples. These couples only want the same rights and equality that everyone else is entitled to—nothing more, nothing less. 55%

4. Many gay and lesbian couples stay together for years, despite disapproval and discrimination, and still they persevere. These couples are committed to building happy lives together despite the obstacles they face. We should vote no on this amendment because gay and lesbian couples deserve to experience the same joys and challenges of marriage as other couples. 53%

4. Our constitution protects each of us equally. That is what the court said. Now, other people want to come in and say that it does not protect everyone equally. They want to say that we should exclude some people from equal protections under the law and that only SOME people should get married, have families, and be able to protect their loved ones. It is wrong to exclude people from constitutional protections. 53%

5. We have been dealing with this issue for so many years, and it’s a waste of time and money. Think of what we could accomplish if we focused this much attention on education, health care, and the environment—issues that bring us together. The Supreme Court has given its opinion, we should let it be. If we keep going back and forth, in and out of court, it will cost us millions and divert our attention from major problems facing our state. 53%

6. The California Supreme Court has only decided that the government must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. There is not one word in this decision that directs any church or religious leader to say or do anything they don’t believe in. We still have separation of church and state. No church, synagogue, or other religious institution will be forced to marry gay and lesbian couples if they don’t want to. 53%

July % of “undecided” that find the statement convincing

1. We do not need more government in our lives. The government has no role telling two committed and devoted adults who they should marry. Government has no business telling people who can and cannot get married just like it cannot tell us what we can read or say or do in our private lives. We do not need a constitutional amendment that gives the government more say in our lives. 72%

2. Marriage is the institution that conveys dignity and respect to couples who want to make a lifetime commitment. Gay and lesbian couples stay together for years and want to make this commitment just like any other loving committed couple. Two people who love each other should have the ability to express that commitment, and no one should be denied that dignity and respect. 60%

3. Regardless of how you feel about this issue, we should guarantee the same fundamental freedoms to every Californian. The freedom to marry is fundamental to our society like the freedoms of religion and speech and we should treat everyone equally. It is simply wrong to vote on people’s fundamental freedoms. 55%

4. Marriage is the institution that conveys dignity and respect to couples who want to make a lifetime commitment. Gay and lesbian couples stay together for years and want to make this commitment just like any other loving committed couple. Two people who love each other should have the ability to express that commitment, and no one should be denied that dignity and respect. Committed and loving couples that want to take on the responsibility that comes with marriage should be treated like everyone else. 53%

5. Our California constitution should not be used to single out one group of people to be treated differently or separately. Basic freedoms and rights should be guaranteed to everyone. Our nation was founded on the principle that everyone should be treated equally. Proposition 8 bans gay and lesbian couples from getting married, that treats them differently and it excludes them from enjoying the same freedoms and rights as other loving, committed couples. 51%