During the time I was writing this report, I acquired significant information about the No on 1 campaign and its effort to retain same-sex marriage in Maine.
The information included all of the TV ads used by both sides. Some important similarities and differences between the No on 1 and No on 8 campaigns are apparent from the TV ads alone. The TV ads are worth significant attention for two reasons: first, because No on 1 and No on 8 allocated the largest share of campaign communications resources to airing them; and second, because Yes on 1 and Yes on 8 shared the same campaign consulting team and it ran very similar campaigns in both states.
Other material and data, including research shared by Third Way and my experience in Maine on the ground running a small test of voter persuasion arguments, illuminate other similarities and differences between No on 1 and No on 8 that merit analysis.
As a result, throughout the report, where I have enough data from which to suggest hypotheses or draw conclusions, I have referenced the experience in Maine. I acknowledge that my information about the Question 1 campaign is much less complete than that regarding the Prop 8 campaign. Even so, I can offer six observations.
The anti-gay Yes on 1 campaign in Maine, like the Yes on 8 campaign in California, was directed by Schubert Flint, the media firm that made the TV ads. Schubert Flint exported its main message from California and brought it to Maine, focusing on the phony argument that kids were in danger. Schubert Flint’s ads in Maine placed even more emphasis on this appeal to anti-gay prejudice than their counterparts in California, indicating that the consulting firm realized that the kids argument was the core part of its strategy that won votes in California.
See Finding 2 for a discussion of the Yes on 8 ads that showcased this strategy in California.
2. The Pro-LGBT Side Tended to Avoid Rather than Rebut the Kids Argument, Even When it was Losing Ground in Regular tracking Polls
The No on 1 campaign in Maine, like No on 8 in California, avoided directly addressing the opposition’s fear-mongering about children, even though voter susceptibility to it seemed likely given the outcome in California. No on 1 made some specific message choices different from those of No on 8—it responded quickly with an unrelated argument about children, and some of its ads much more clearly depicted LGBT people— but the remarkable similarity is that neither campaign directly rebutted in its TV ads the fears stimulated by our opposition in their TV ads.
See Finding 4 for the full discussion of this topic.
The No on 1 campaign included more LGBT people in its TV ads than any previous campaign, by far. In my opinion, this was an important step forward. Yet No on 1’s ads were crafted so that it was perhaps not obvious to most voters when they were viewing LGBT people in the ads. Only sparingly did No on 1 ads clearly communicate that a person on-screen was gay in a way every viewer would understand. No on 1 was particularly coy when it came to language. In its TV ads, No on 1 used the word “gay” only one time in one ad. In California, No on 8 used the word “gay” one time in two ads.
It is beyond the scope of this report to evaluate the entire range of No on 1 campaign communications with voters. Anecdotally, some Mainers have told me that they used the word “gay” and were clear and direct talking with voters about same-sex marriage, and I believe them. But the campaign did not systematically make those kinds of choices. Instead, the No on 1 leaflet included in this section is the kind of classic de-gayed communication that is functionally content-free from the point of view of most voters; and this leaflet was the only handout provided to the door-to-door canvass to use as they asked Cumberland County voters to vote early by mail. Most importantly, the No on 1 TV ads very likely represented the overwhelming majority of communications voters received from the No on 1 campaign. For many voters, the content of the TV ads probably was the No on 1 campaign.
See Finding 5 for the full discussion of this topic.
The No on 1 campaign in Maine, like the No on 8 campaign in California, outspent the opposition. In Maine, however, No on 1 benefitted from a far greater financial advantage than No on 8, particularly in the early weeks of the final phase of the campaign. No on 1 more clearly than No on 8 helps us know that outspending the opposition is not enough to drown out the opposition message and is not a substitute for rebutting the opposition message.
See Finding 5 for a more detailed discussion
5. A Thorough Search to Hire Principal Consultants May Be a Wise Investment of Time and One to Ensure Exposure to a Variety of Ideas about How to Run the Campaign
No on 1’s hiring process for its principal consultants was brief and narrow compared to the approach this report recommends. Other choices made by the campaign limited its exposure to a range of ideas and to timely critique of its approach.
See Recommendation 11 for a more detailed discussion.
In its preparations in advance of the ballot measure, EqualityMaine did a significantly more thorough job than is the norm, particularly in identifying voters supportive of same-sex marriage. This was a smart focus, particularly given that the Question 1 election was held in an off-year; turnout was very high for an off-year, but still far lower than in a presidential election year.
This report is not, of course, a full and thorough
evaluation of the totality of the No on 1 campaign. The point of providing the
information in this appendix is to help people begin the process of learning
from the experience in Maine and to encourage the leaders of the No on 1
campaign to consider further evaluation of their campaign.
No on 1 Ad Transcriptions
Yes on 1 Ad Transcriptions
Part 5: Persuasion Phone Bank Script, Memo to Campaign Manager, and Revised Script
When No on 1 ran a phone bank testing our ability to persuade undecided voters to vote No, our team called a small sample of voters identified as undecided earlier in the campaign, and scored as most likely to break towards No (having a “marriage score” of 90 or more out of a possible 100). The script is attached below.
Of this group that should have been very favorably disposed towards us, 29% ended the conversation planning to vote No; 44% planned to vote Yes; and the remaining 27% were concerned about the kids issue, and we were in danger of losing them. I wrote up notes and recommendations from the experience and submitted a memo to the campaign manager with the revised script and encouraged them to follow up. The memo and revised script are attached below.
Click to view full size. Reprinted with permission of Third Way.
For a detailed discussion of this topic, see Finding 1.