The Agenda

Prop 8 analysis finds scare ads worked

A last-minute barrage of television ads designed to frighten the parents of school-aged children probably swayed half a million Californians to vote “yes” on Proposition 8, the statewide ballot initiative that ended legal marriage for same-sex couples.  That’s the key take away from a new analysis released today by David Fleischer of the LGBT mentoring project, which is part of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

Some polling in the 2008 campaign showed the outcome too close to call as Election Day neared, but a late surge of support for Prop 8 swamped “No on 8” organizers who were trying to protect marriage equality in the state.  After the election, a few observers blamed African-American voters for the outcome, but Fleischer, writing in the Los Angeles Times today, said that community’s support for Prop 8 remained steady throughout the campaign:

True, a majority of African-Americans opposed same-sex marriage, but that was true at the beginning and at the end of the campaign; few changed their minds in the closing weeks.

The shift, it turns out, was greatest among parents with children under 18 living at home–many of them white Democrats.

The numbers are staggering. In the last six weeks, when both sides saturated the airwaves with television ads, more than 687,000 voters changed their minds and decided to oppose same-sex marriage. More than 500,000 of those, the data suggest, were parents with children under 18 living at home.  Because the proposition passed by 600,000 votes, this shift alone more than handed victory to proponents.

According to Fleischer, marriage equality proponents will have to “arm” parents against a similar propaganda attack when and if the question comes before voters again.  “This analysis makes absolutely clear that supporters of same-sex marriage have a lot of work to do before we return to the ballot. But that work is already underway, and now real knowledge can underpin our efforts,” Fleischer writes.