The Yes on 8 Campaign activated and exploited anti-gay prejudice even among some of the voters in our base. In the final six weeks of the campaign, it won votes, particularly among parents with children under 18 at home, by making the false, fear-mongering argument that “kids are in danger.”
Both historically and in the Prop 8 campaign, the LGBT community has had difficulty facing and responding to anti-gay prejudice and attacks similar to the one waged by Yes on 8.
As a result of this reluctance to engage and refute anti-gay prejudice directly, the LGBT community and our allies struggle to wage effective ballot measure campaigns.
· : 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.