The Yes on 8 campaign activated and exploited anti-gay prejudice even among some of the voters in our base. Its phony, widely broadcast argument that “kids are in danger” attracted additional votes from hundreds of thousands of parents with young children at home. The argument is false and familiar and one to which we have succumbed in other ballot measure campaigns. By now, we ought to foresee this attack and prepare for it.
Yet we’re repeatedly taken by surprise. In the No on 8 and in campaigns both before and after, the LGBT community has had continual difficulty directly facing and rebutting anti-gay prejudice and kids-based attacks. As a result, we struggle to wage strong campaigns.
The first five findings in this report examine Yes on 8’s specific appeals to voters and No on 8’s response:
· : A significant number of voters are persuadable on the issue of same-sex marriage. In the Prop 8 campaign, a minimum of 5% of all voters—a minimum of 687,000—changed their views on same-sex marriage in the final six weeks of the campaign. Almost all identifiable demographic groups moved toward the anti-gay position, most notably parents with children under eighteen living at home. Other groups that moved significantly in favor of the ban on same-sex marriage included white Democrats (by 24 points), voters in the greater Bay Area (31 points), voters age 30-39 (29 points), and Independent voters (26 points).
· : The Yes on 8 “Princes” & “Newsom” ads were effective at exploiting voters’ anti-gay prejudice and moving voters away from same-sex marriage.
· : The No on 8 “O’Connell” & “Thorons” ads were the most effective attempts to confront the opposition’s exploitation of prejudice.
· : The most costly mistake by No on 8 was the two-week delay in rebutting “Princes” and the kids argument. No on 8 regained ground only after rebutting “Princes” in its TV ads.
· : Yes on 8’s message was clear, direct, repetitive, and penetrating. No on 8’s message was vague, inconsistent, and too often de-gayed, reducing its power to persuade.
The next two findings examine the failure of both polling and election results to reveal the full extent of our vulnerability to anti-gay prejudice. In Prop 8, both major public polls and the final official election results understate our vulnerability. As a result, we have a bigger problem than is commonly understood.
· : The two major public polls in California created the misimpression that No on 8 was favored to win.
· : The election results overstated our side’s support; the result would have been 54% to 46% had the voters understood what they were voting for.
We have improved at the Power Building parts of putting together a campaign. Let’s both celebrate the achievements and note the room for further improvement.
No on 8 raised more money and recruited and mobilized more volunteers than any past LGBT campaign. These accomplishments suggest that we are getting better at building the power to win these elections even though further improvements are essential.
· : The field operation of the No on 8 campaign recruited quite possibly the largest number of volunteers mustered in any LGBT campaign of any kind in California or U.S. history. Despite its impressive size, however, one key flaw limited its impact on the election result.
· : The fundraising of the No on 8 campaign, from start to finish, broke all records and set a completely new higher standard for what the LGBT community and our allies can accomplish in the face of anti-LGBT attacks. Despite this, however, outspending the opposition is not an adequate strategy for electoral victory; and, in addition, we must raise more of our money early or even spending parity or an overall spending advantage accruing to our side will leave us unnecessarily vulnerable.
Recommendations 7 through 14 suggest changes in structure and approach with the potential to complement some of the effective choices made by No on 8 that are documented in this report.
The six TV ads above receive the most extended discussion in the report, but both campaigns had additional ads. For a discussion of all ads, see Appendix E.
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