The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and its allies suffered a terrible loss in November 2008 when voters approved Prop 8 and banned same-sex marriage in California.

The purpose of this report is to help supporters of same-sex marriage learn from the Prop 8 campaign. This knowledge can hasten the day that we are able to return to the ballot to win same-sex marriage in California or in any state where we have previously lost on the issue.

There is much to learn. Many commonly held beliefs about Prop 8 are factually incorrect. The data show that the pro–same-sex marriage side, the No on 8 campaign, made both smart choices and costly mistakes. This report aims to help our entire community recognize and learn from both. Understanding what happened will help all of us face and embrace the hard work ahead.

In plain text, accessible to community leaders, campaign experts, and grassroots activists alike, this report examines and shares a large body of data, including but not limited to the polling information recently released by the No on 8 campaign. The report identifies and examines the strategy and tactics prioritized by the No on 8 and Yes on 8 campaigns. It looks most closely at television advertising because both campaigns spent by far the largest share of their money on this one tactic.

The report also assembles key facts about other aspects of the campaign and a campaign chronology. It charts movement in public opinion and summarizes a substantial body of polling data previously unavailable for public examination. The report reveals that some strategic choices were much more effective than others. The result: it identifies lessons learned that can help the LGBT community and our allies do better and avoid repeating mistakes.

My Qualifications

In addition to data, this report includes my independent analysis of the data. I offer my views because data does not speak for itself. We have to make sense of it. All of us can contribute to that understanding; I come prepared to help. My preparation includes 30 years as a campaign manager and trainer of candidates, managers, and community organizers, with 17 of those years in the trenches doing the practical, necessary work to fight anti-LGBT ballot measures. Since 1993, I have significantly participated in, advised, and/or closely observed 105 campaigns to preempt, stop, delay, and overcome anti-LGBT ballot measures and (on one occasion) move forward a pro-LGBT ballot measure.

I was able to do this work because I created, developed, institutionalized, and ran three of the premier leadership development programs that exist in the LGBT community today. From 1993 through 1998, I created and ran the national training program for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and Victory Foundation; I trained openly LGBT candidates, potential candidates, campaign managers, and those taking very demanding leadership roles fighting anti-LGBT ballot measures.

From 1999 through 2006, I created and ran the Organizing and Training Department at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; I focused the Task Force organizing team to help state and local communities fight back when threatened with anti-LGBT ballot measures.

Starting in 2007, I created the LGBT Mentoring Project to mentor LGBT teams and leaders to build stronger, more effective educational and political organizations, most of which have been significantly focused on fighting anti-LGBT ballot measures. I continue to run this program, which in May of this year became part of the leadership LAB of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. For more information on my background, see the About the Author section of this report.

This Report Aims to Stimulate Independent Thinking 

Given the difficulty our community has experienced with the same-sex marriage measures, all of us, myself included, are still near the beginning of the learning curve. This report therefore includes not only my best thinking, but also that of a team that helped me craft this report (see the report’s Acknowledgements), and an even larger team that I recruited to read and continually critique the report in the six months prior to publication. I owe them all my thanks for their advice and correction. I asked for their help because I thought it would make the report better, and it did.

Fundamentally, our community’s need to have more people think about why we have lost so many of these ballot measures is the reason why the report breaks with convention and makes the data available and accessible. Only with data can anyone think about Prop 8 in an intelligent way. The more of us who see the data and consider its implications—the more brains we have hard at work as we seek to bend history toward justice—the more likely we will take smart, strategic, and constructive next steps. If we as a community learn from the past, we can find a way forward. The alternative is to live out Rita Mae Brown’s definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

This Report Alerts Us That We Must Know our History

The need to learn from history is particularly acute because the central message of the anti-LGBT side isn’t new. Our opposition keeps recycling the spurious idea that kids are in danger. For example, the anti-gay Yes on 1 campaign in Maine in 2009 used exactly the same message as the Yes on 8 campaign in 2008. Both echoed anti-gay campaigns going back at least to 1977. Yet the pro-LGBT side often fails to anticipate that the time-tested anti-gay message is coming or underestimates its effect. The No on 8 campaign was inadequately prepared when the same ugly arguments surfaced in the final thirty days before the election. The more of us on the pro-LGBT side who learn and recall history, the more likely we will be prepared the next time. Preparation will increase our chances of success.

Similarly, some of the mistakes in No on 8 recall mistakes made by pro-LGBT campaigns across the country. See Appendix L for a discussion of the larger dynamics that lead our side to repeat strategic choices similar to those that failed us in the past. Foremost among them is hoping that avoidance of the kids issue will minimize its impact. It doesn’t. See Finding 4 for a full discussion of this complex topic.

This Report Shows That Polling is Both Part of the Problem and Part of the Solution.

Most campaigns rely significantly on polling. This is the accepted best practice in professional campaigns. But past experience underscores two serious polling defects. First, polling tends to overstate where we stand with voters on same-sex marriage when the topic is not receiving consistent, high-profile attention. Analysis of public opinion surveys on same-sex marriage conducted between 1988 and 2008 shows that when public controversy dies away, polling tends to overstate support for the pro-LGBT position. The March 2010 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) showing 50% of California adult residents supporting same-sex marriage is only the latest example.

Second, polling can give us bad advice. It can overstate the persuasiveness of our arguments: in Prop 8, it provided a mistakenly optimistic view of how voters respond to broad, abstract, public policy arguments we find easy to make; and it failed to alert us to the power of opposition arguments that we find uncomfortable to challenge.

This report values polling. Much of the insight it offers into what happened with Prop 8 owes a great deal to the smart polling commissioned by the No on 8 campaign. But that said, the LGBT community makes specific, predictable mistakes when we rely on polling to the exclusion of other data or expertise. Our actual lived experience in these campaigns—our history—offers a necessary corrective. Appendices I and J offer a discussion of both the strengths and deficiencies of polling. Appendix J also includes a short guide to critical thinking about polling, a review of best polling practices, and some examples of common misinterpretations of polling data.

Our Opposition Knows What It’s Doing. We’re the Ones who Need to Get Up to Speed.

For those who fear that this report will enlighten our opposition as to how to run an effective campaign, I have a message: they already know how to do that. This is not only revealed by our community’s won-loss record on the same-sex marriage ballot measures; it is also clear from reading Schubert and Flint’s analysis of the Yes on 8 campaign they ran. In their February 2009 article in Politics magazine, they make it plain that they know how they won: “[No on 8’s] failure to respond to the ‘consequences’ messages (especially the education message) in a timely fashion ultimately led to their downfall.” This tracks Findings 1 and 2 of this report, which would be the most sensitive findings in the report except that the opposition knows the information, has publicly proclaimed it, and has already applied it in Maine after winning with it in California.

The group without access to what is known about these campaigns is our own community. This report is my best effort to help those of us who care deeply about the LGBT community and its prospects to understand what we’re up against and how to be smarter as we fight for our rights. If many more of us commit now to ongoing, intelligent, strategic, and collective action, and measure the effectiveness of what we do as we go along, we can put our community in a position of strength before we next face a high-stakes vote. If we practice hard now, we will do much better then.

For the LGBT community, our quest for Wedding Day has too often looked like Groundhog Day. In that film, every day repeats the past one until the protagonist recognizes his own self-limiting patterns. For us as well, greater shared community knowledge and self-knowledge is the first step forward, away from the past.

Why Prop 8 Matters, even Beyond California

There are five reasons why Prop 8 offers so many lessons and provides so many useful clues on how to conduct future campaigns.

Scale: Prop 8 was, by far, the biggest, most amply funded, most hotly contested ballot measure on same-sex marriage of the 35 statewide votes to date. No on 8, the pro-LGBT campaign, tried more ideas, spent more money, and involved more people than any other ballot measure campaign on an LGBT issue in U.S. history. CRX

Shock: To many, the Prop 8 loss was unexpected. Public polling showed No on 8 comfortably ahead until the end. Prop 8 offers valuable lessons on what should surprise us and what shouldn’t in similar future elections. CRX

Déjà Vu: History keeps repeating itself, to our detriment. The most important strategic choices made by both sides in the Prop 8 campaign were not new. For example, in 2009 the tactics and message of the Yes on 8 anti-gay campaign were exported from California to Maine and prevailed again. In both states, the pro-LGBT side lost ground in the closing weeks of the campaign to ads exploiting anti-gay prejudice. Ads like these will repeatedly appear until we know how to preempt or answer them. CRX

Data: No on 8 invested almost $1.2 million in research. For this report, the LGBT Mentoring Project managed to collect and reassemble much of it. This report summarizes data from more than 10,000 pages of documents and more than 40 hours of interviews with key No on 8 decision makers. CRX

Media and Message: Both Yes on 8 and No on 8 devoted their resources to paid TV advertising. It was the dominant tactic of both campaigns. This report examines and measures the impact of that tactic with great precision. By tracking down every ad aired by both sides, and by documenting the dates, locations, and frequency of voter exposure to each ad. The bottom line is that, in the final six weeks of the campaign, some messages changed voters’ minds. This report shows which ads worked and which didn’t, and it identifies the voters most affected. CRX

The Top 10 Facts and Findings of the Report

1.    Our Base Shrank: Yes on 8 won by peeling away some voters who supported same-sex marriage only six weeks earlier. From September 22 through election day, at least 5% of voters moved towards the anti-gay side. No on 8 lost ground among many types of voters, but it lost most ground among parents, white Democrats, Latinos, and voters in the Greater Bay Area. Other voter groups favored Yes on 8 by bigger margins, including Republicans and African-Americans, but No on 8 did not lose nearly as much ground among them in the closing weeks. See Finding 1 and Appendix H for detailed discussion.

2.    The Children’s Hour: The most effective decision made by either campaign—the one with the biggest impact on the outcome—was Yes on 8’s decision to appeal to anti-gay prejudice by dishonestly alleging danger to kids. Its most broadcasted ad, “Princes,” and most of its other ads charged that schools would expose kids to inappropriate information about gay people. The Yes on 8 ads changed votes on Prop 8 even though they only peripherally concerned marriage. See Finding 2 for detailed discussion.

3.    Parents Ran Away: 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. The lesson of the Yes on 8 campaign: when parents hear that their kids are in danger, even if it’s a lie some of them believe it—particularly when the lie largely goes unanswered. See Finding 1 for a more detailed discussion. The Chart above shows mothers switching sides after the “Princes” ad penetrates. More than fifty charts document key points throughout the report.

4.    Smart But Too Late: The most costly mistake by No on 8 came in early- to mid-October: the two-and-a-half-week delay before rebutting “Princes” in TV ads. On the other hand, the two most effective moves made by No on 8 came in mid- to late October: airing the “O’Connell” ad to rebut the “Princes” argument that kids were in danger; and the remarkable fundraising surge that allowed No to outspend Yes in the closing days. See Finding 4 for detailed discussion.

5.    Record-Breaking Fundraising: 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. Improved online fundraising contributed importantly to this achievement. See Finding 9 for detailed discussion.

6.    Record-Breaking Field, With a Serious Flaw: No on 8’s field organizers recruited and mobilized 51,000 volunteers, quite possibly the largest number mustered for any LGBT campaign of any kind in California or U.S. history. Yet the field program had little impact on most voters it contacted, because it focused on building a list of identified supporters who were most already very likely to vote. With better focus, a field operation built on the strengths of this one could have great value in a future campaign. A telling fact is that No on 8’s strong recruitment effort engaged 51,000 people who wanted to help and did help. See Finding 8 for detailed discussion.

7.    One-Sided Message Discipline: Much more so than No on 8, Yes on 8 maximized the memorability and impact of its communications by making sure its ads were clear, direct, and repetitive. See Finding 5 for detailed discussion.

8.    Changing Horses in Midstream: No on 8 installed new leaders and consultants on September 29, thirty-seven days before Election Day. The new decision makers focused campaign operations and oversaw big improvements in fundraising. On the other hand, they ran ads very different from those created earlier. No on 8’s message discipline suffered as a result. See Finding 5 for detailed discussion.

9.    Avoiding the G Word: Most of the No on 8 consultants as well as the second campaign manager and his team felt that the campaign message should deemphasize the impact of the ballot measure on LGBT people and avoid the word “gay.” Polling supported the same approach: clear arguments about LGBT people and use of the word “gay” tested less well than abstract arguments and vagueness. But the polling advice is very likely an artifact of the polling itself as well as a reflection of actual voter preferences, and is fundamentally irrelevant: voters were going to learn that Prop 8 concerned gay people whether or not No on 8 told them. Although the No on 8 executive committee resisted the pressure and insisted on the use of the word “gay” when it was operating as a decision-making body, tension between the two impulses compromised message discipline. Results included message tentativeness, gay-avoidance in the later No on 8 ads, and a “de-gayed” campaign in general. Ultimately, the only two No on 8 TV ads that had a measureable impact on voters were the only two that used the word “gay.” See Finding 5 and Appendix L for detailed discussion.

10.  Not So Close: Prop 8 passed 52% to 48%, by 600,000 votes, but those numbers are misleading. 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. See Finding 7 and Appendix K for detailed discussion.

Top 10 Recommendations of the Report

1.    Start Now: Football teams watch game films and scrimmage between games. Students do homework. Maestros rehearse. We have to engage voters between campaigns—not just immediately before the next election—if we want better results. Now is the time to try out new ideas, new approaches, and new messages. What we learn now can help us plan smarter for the next campaign; and the stakes are much lower now than they will be closer to Election Day. See recommendations 1-3 for detailed discussion.

2.    Evaluate Frequently: The weaknesses of No on 8 were not unique. They resemble past mistakes in similar campaigns. We can overcome the patterns that drive us to repeat the same mistakes if we frequently evaluate how we’re doing—not how we’re doing compared to past campaigns or to standard campaign practice, but how we’re doing compared to the specific work we need to get done to put ourselves in a position to win. At a minimum, every two months let’s seriously evaluate the performance of all consultants, the campaign manager, and top leadership. This is how to detect and correct problems early, avoid late-in-the-game regime change, and improve performance and accountability across the board. See recommendations 1-3 and Appendix L for detailed discussion.

3.    Practice Persuasion: Before returning to the ballot, we must learn how to persuade some of those who voted against us on Prop 8 to reconsider. Let’s focus on those who lean against us or could go either way: they need to be persuaded to support same-sex marriage. This doesn’t minimize the need to also turn out to vote those already on our side who don’t reliably vote. See recommendations 1-3 for detailed discussion.

4.    Counter Anti-Gay Prejudice: We must develop effective arguments to keep voters from being misled by false and defamatory allegations of harm to children historically used to instill fear in voters. In Prop 8, our base of supporters shrank in the final six weeks when the ads exploiting prejudice went on the air. To prevent the same thing from happening in future campaigns, we have to inoculate persuadable voters; shrink-proof our base; and be ready to beat back anti-gay, fear-based arguments when they surface. See recommendations 1-3 for detailed discussion.

5.    Stay in the Driver’s Seat: Closer to an election, there is value to polling and to hiring consultants. But neither is a panacea. Both have blind spots—yet both tend to take over. Let’s be data-driven, not poll-driven; valuable information is not limited to polls. Let’s be expertise-driven, not consultant-driven; let’s cultivate expertise that allows us to work with and manage consultants, not simply defer to them. See recommendation 7 for detailed discussion.

6.    Cultivate Allies: Knowing that we lost ground particularly among parents, white Democrats, Independents, and voters in the Greater Bay Area, let’s make one of our highest priorities building more and stronger alliances with leaders and groups that organize those constituencies. Likewise, let’s reach out to voter subgroups such as African-Americans that we lost by larger margins. The work outside of our base is more speculative; some of it will bear fruit, and some won’t. But the LGBT community has to do this work well in advance of the next ballot measure, or we will never measurably improve our standing with some of these voters. See recommendation 3 for detailed discussion.

7.    Don’t Underestimate Directness and Honesty: In three different realms, No on 8 demonstrated the power of honesty. Honesty with our supporters was motivational: they donated in massive numbers when No on 8 honestly shared the bad news that we were in danger of losing. Avoidance of the most direct, honest response cost us a key slice of the electorate that started out with us: parents fell for the anti-gay “Princes” argument when we waited too long to reply with the truth. Being less than fully honest with ourselves affected part of the No on 8 polling; it tested messages in a way that yielded misleading answers. Honesty and directness do not guarantee success, and they may feel uncomfortable or simplistic when the stakes are so high. But if we can’t live with discomfort and take calculated risks, we will continue to make partially honest choices that have repeatedly led us to defeat. See recommendation 13 for detailed discussion.

8.    Learn from Maine and Other States: California is unique. Maine is unique. And yet the similarities between their campaigns were far greater than the differences. We can’t let the uniqueness of each state diminish our curiosity about learning from each other. From Maine, California can learn at least three lessons. First, although pro-LGBT forces in Maine raised and spent 50% more money than anti-gay forces, their experience showed that money alone can’t solve the problem with “Princes” and its appeal to anti-gay prejudice. Second, that the strategy of avoidance—the idea that de-gaying the pro-LGBT campaign can shield voters from the reality that the election is primarily about LGBT people—doesn’t work no matter what form it takes. Third, when polling shows we’re ahead, don’t believe it. It’s too easy for a poll to underestimate the prejudice against us. Let’s resist overconfidence and assume we’re the underdog. Almost certainly, that’s the reality. See Recommendation 12 for detailed discussion.

9.    Build a Team: To maximize the ability of the campaign manager, the consultants, and the board to function as a team, have one central office. Base the manager and key staff there, as well as the support staff that will keep the manager from being overwhelmed. Require (and pay) the consultants to come there for regular, face-to-face meetings. Have all board meetings there. Establish that the central office is responsible for addressing inquiries and needs from around the state quickly and effectively. Hire the campaign manager first, before hiring consultants; this increases the ability of the manager to manage them. Choose a manager whose style is consultative after establishing their capability and willingness to engage others appropriately, then give them the authority to make decisions. Choose a manager strong enough and smart enough to hold the consultants accountable. Build a board strong enough and expert enough to hold the manager accountable. See recommendations 9 and 10 for detailed discussion.

10.  Include but go beyond the Usual Suspects: The small circle of people who are normally involved in crucial LGBT community matters and in California politics are very talented, but their talent is not enough. Reach out to additional people with smarts, expertise, and good judgment, who can apply their capabilities to the specific challenges we face. An example of No on 8 doing this well was when the second campaign manager and one of his deputies brought in a team of information technology experts from Google, Facebook, and Yahoo to fix the campaign’s online fundraising. The team of twenty IT volunteers saved the day, yet probably none of them numbered among the usual suspects to whom a campaign would normally turn. Part of a strong campaign is constantly searching for, trying out, and evaluating new talent. See Recommendation 10 for detailed discussion.

Most of the Conventional Wisdom about the Prop 8 Campaign is Wrong

Immediately after the loss on Prop 8, many in the LGBT community and among our allies understandably wanted to make sense of the results. A set of ideas gained wide attention. Some are correct. Most, however, are wrong.


The Common Conception

The Reality


The election was so close that we can easily reverse the results. A future campaign just needs to avoid the obvious mistakes of No on 8 and we’ll win.

We are actually 1 million votes away from being able to reverse Prop 8 in a presidential election year. That’s not close. Although No on 8 made mistakes, we lost because we didn’t effectively respond to anti-gay attacks—and we have work to do before we have an effective answer to the attacks. We should go back to the ballot when we can discredit the appeals to anti-gay prejudice, and not before. See Finding 7 and Appendix K for a more detailed explanation.


African-American voters cost us the election, and they should know better because they too are victimized by prejudice.

We lost among African-Americans and many other groups, too. 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. See Finding 1, Appendix J guideline 10, and Recommendation 3 for a more detailed explanation.


Those who voted against us hate us.

The dictionary defines "hate" as extreme aversion or hostility. This does not describe most who voted against us. The 687,000 voters who moved towards the ban on same-sex marriage in the final six weeks of the campaign are very similar demographically to many who voted with us. Also, it doesn't make sense to assume that a voter is hateful of gay people just because they voted against us when, for half of the final month of the campaign, they were exposed to a virulent anti-gay argument without hearing the counterargument from us. The bottom line: whatever motivated the Yes on 8 consultants and donors, and perhaps it was hate, the much larger group who voted against us is much more varied. Yes, they likely share some degree of anti-gay prejudice, and it is difficult to change their minds on marriage. But the post-Prop-8 canvassing experience shows that almost none consider themselves hateful of gay people and, most importantly, they are not all the same. See Finding 1 for a more detailed explanation.


The No on 8 campaign needed to be more grassroots. Very few people got involved, because they were asked to phonebank rather than get involved in ways they preferred.

No on 8 recruited and mobilized 51,000 volunteers, quite possibly more than in any other LGBT campaign in California or US history. While there were serious flaws in the focus of the field program, the simple truth is that some grassroots activities have a bigger impact on the electoral outcome than others. Future field campaigns will have to ask volunteers to focus on the most strategic work or they will have little impact. See Finding 8 and Recommendations 1-3 for a more detailed explanation.


Rural parts of the state were unjustifiably neglected.

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. That’s where No on 8 lost the most ground among voters. See Finding 8 for a more detailed explanation.


Mormon money was essential to the success of Yes on 8.

This one is true. According to Schubert Flint, the lead consulting firm for Yes on 8, the Mormons raised $22 million from July through September with 40% of the money or more coming from members of the Church of Latter-day Saints. See Appendix G for a more detailed explanation.


No on 8 lost ground over the course of the campaign.

This is true, or not, depending on what date you choose as the start of the campaign. No didn’t lose ground between May and November; it had roughly the same amount of voter support at the time of the court decision as it did on Election Day. But the stronger argument is that the common conception has it right. No on 8 did lose ground between mid-September and November 4. During the six weeks leading up to election day, when both sides had paid TV ads on the air, No on 8 went from being even with Yes on 8 to falling behind. See Finding 1 and Appendix H for a more detailed explanation.


We could have won!

The available data do not tell us whether this is true. It is possible that alternative choices would have improved the result. It is also possible that all known alternatives would have fallen short under the pressure of Yes on 8’s exploitation of anti-gay prejudice. See Appendix H for a more detailed explanation.


No on 8 was a terrible campaign with few, if any, redeeming features.

No on 8 made some big mistakes but also did some important things right. It’s worth taking the time to examine the campaign closely rather than dismiss it. That’s how we can maximize our learning and speed the day we repeal Prop 8. See Findings 8 and 9 for a more detailed explanation.


In Summary, the Best and Worst

What the No on 8 Campaign Did Not Do Well

·         Learn from History: The campaign consultants were unprepared when the Yes on 8 campaign launched attacks raising the issue of kids in danger. They had not adequately familiarized themselves with the history of attack messages used against the LGBT community in prior ballot measure campaigns, instead relying almost exclusively on polling and focus groups. Had they learned more from past anti-LGBT campaigns, they would have known the history of shortcomings in polling and focus groups to anticipate and answer those attacks. There is no guarantee that familiarity with history would have prepared No on 8 to respond effectively; but the lack of awareness meant that No on 8 was unnecessarily taken by surprise and unnecessarily unprepared. See Appendix L for a more detailed explanation.

·         Promptly Respond to Attack: The campaign responded too late to Yes on 8’s “Princes” ad and its appeal to anti-gay prejudice. It refrained from responding even when internal polling showed the ad was having ongoing impact and was putting Yes on 8 over 50%. See Finding 4 for a more detailed explanation.

·         Exercise Message Discipline: Unlike Yes on 8, No on 8 missed the opportunity to repeat and reinforce one clear message throughout the campaign. See Finding 5 for a more detailed explanation.

·         Manage Consultants: The campaign did not manage the consultants to obtain a consistent high level of performance. It lacked a campaign manager who was ready, willing, and able to do this. The campaign committee did not step in and act quickly when faced with the manager’s inability to get better results from the consultants. See Finding 4 and Appendix L for a more detailed explanation.

·         Focus the Field Campaign on Voters Who Would Affect the Outcome: Field staff and volunteers put substantial effort into identifying voters who were already supportive, most of whom were likely to vote. In a high-turnout, high-stimulus election like the 2008 presidential election, wiser tactics would have been to (a) attempt to persuade moveable voters and undecideds or (b) identify and turn out those supporters least likely to vote. See Finding 8 for a more detailed explanation.

What the No on 8 Campaign Did Well

·         Raise Money: No on 8 raised an unprecedented amount of money, more than six times the most previously raised to fight an anti-LGBT ballot measure, and enough to wage a statewide campaign in California. See Finding 9 for a more detailed explanation.

·         Go Public: One reason for the late-stage fundraising success was that the executive committee and its second campaign manager overrode the advice of consultants. In early October, they went public with numbers from No on 8’s internal polls that showed the campaign behind. Prior, starting in May, most of the public polls showed No on 8 well ahead, while the campaign’s internal polling showed it was in trouble. The early lead by No on 8 in the public polls allowed many to wrongly believe that No on 8 would win easily. No on 8 was not entirely silent: as public polls came out, No on 8 said that its internal polling showed the election to be close. But the campaign had not forcefully taken exception to the rosy public poll numbers, eg by offering specific polling numbers of its own or having its pollster talk with the press. Fortunately, No on 8 corrected course just when last-minute appeals were likely to yield the greatest results. The result: 88% of No on 8’s individual donations came in the final month, after the information was released. See Finding 9 for a more detailed explanation.

·         Fix the Web Site: It happened late, but just in the nick of time. No on 8 brought in IT experts who greatly improved the Web site and online campaign presence, one of the critical elements that improved campaign fundraising. See Finding 9 for a more detailed explanation.

·         Start Some Important Work Early: No on 8 convened leaders from around the state; hired a manager when a ballot measure first looked imminent; tried out one general consultant in 2006, and finding performance wanting, hired a new one in 2007; and ran an anti-petitioning campaign to get the field operation up and running early. Likewise, Equality Maine was uncommonly thoughtful in its approach to winning legislative passage of a same-sex marriage law, correctly anticipating that the anti-LGBT side would force a repeal vote onto the ballot and laying important groundwork for Maine’s No on 1 campaign. By contrast, most pro-LGBT campaigns wait until the opposition qualifies an anti-LGBT measure for the ballot before beginning to prepare.  See Appendix C for a timeline of No on 8 activities.

·         Mobilize Volunteers: Thanks in part to early and ongoing field activity, starting with but not limited to the anti-petitioning campaign, No on 8 recruited, trained, and mobilized more than 51,000 volunteers, quite possibly the largest number ever organized by the LGBT community in California or in any ballot measure campaign. Together, volunteers statewide worked 47,000 shifts totaling 150,000–200,000 hours. See Finding 8 for a more detailed explanation.