It's election season, and campaign managers' thoughts (at least those with money) turn to... advertising. Specifically television advertising. Minnesotans, not much of a target for Presidential
mudslinging ads and without Senate or Governor's races, will nonetheless find themselves watching lots of thrity-second spots for and against the constitutional amendment defining marriage as "solely between one man and one woman." Perhaps this time they will be mostly pro.
...opponents of the ((Minnesota constitutional amendment against marriage equality)) have far outraised its supporters, and now enjoy a $4 million cash advantage.
And so it is that Freedom to Marry came up with this new ad for the Minnesota campaign, featuring grandparents from Duluth, married since 1953, speaking about how
The world is changing...
and their own views about marriage along with it.
It's a decent ad. Hardly a game-changer, but it might hit home enough to swing a few older-generation voters -- a critical demographic most opposed to marriage equality.
One thing about the ad is very true: The world is indeed changing. Even the Vietnamese are talking about the rights of same-sex couples, you barely hear a peep out of the national GOP on the same-sex marriage front, and Democrats are about to enshrine marriage equality as one of their principles. A far cry from four years ago when no major candidate of either party would go near same-sex marriage other than to denounce it, while Proposition 8 came away victorious in otherwise liberal California.
So how do things look in the four M states which will be holding referenda in November? (W, after all, is just an M turned upside down and squished in a bit -- so there!). Below I present the polling averages of all the polls I know of in each state that ask specifically about the ballot referendum the voters will be faced with (as opposed to the more general question of abstractly legalizing same-sex marriage).
Average of nine polls taken over more than a year:
Against amendment: 44.7%
For amendment: 46.3%
This doesn't look so good until you understand that in order for the amendment to pass, it has to get 50% of all those who vote in the election to vote in favor -- including in the tally those who, for example, vote for President but leave the amendment question blank. Typically a few percent of voters leave questions like this blank, so the amendment could succeed-yet-fail with something like a vote of 49.5% in favor, 47.5% opposed, and 3% leaving the question blank.
Average of five polls taken in the last year:
For initiative legalizing same-sex marriage: 54.3%
Against initiative legalizing same-sex marriage: 37.8%
With a spread of more than 16%, Maine is poised to overturn it's people's veto in 2009 of the law the legislature passed and the Governor signed that legalized same-sex marriage. Polls will close at 8:00 PM on Tuesday, November 6th, and hopefully not very long after, along with reporting that Maine is safely in President Obama's electoral vote tally, whomever's job it is to make such calls will also tell us that Maine has become the first state in whose people have voted proactively FOR marriage equality.
Average of five polls taken in 2012:
Endorse law legalizing same-sex marriage: 50.2%
Veto law legalizing same-sex marriage: 42.3%
With slightly more than a majority and a spread of almost 8%, this one could nonetheless be a nail-biter. President Obama's "coming out" in favor of marriage equality seems to have been crucial in influencing Maryland's significant African-American community to be more inclined to look favorably on this. That might well be the edge that holds the vote in favor above 50%, but equality opponents probably see this as their best shot in three to defeat legalization by popular vote, and will likely pull out all the stops as the campaign intensifies.
Average of five polls taken in the last year:
Endorse law legalizing same-sex marriage: 50.4%
Veto law legalizing same-sex marriage: 43.2%
Very similar to Maryland's polling, but despite it being a slightly lesser spread (7% vs 8% in Maryland) I think there is more confidence of a favorable outcome here. Some of Washington's biggest employers have taken strong stands for marriage equality, and voters in 2009 upheld a strong civil unions law 53% - 47%. The most recent two polls have both come in at 50% - 43%, just hitting the magic majority threshold. Still, it is quite plausible that marriage equality advocates will be up long into the night on November 6th waiting and hoping for returns from King's County (Seattle) to put them 'over the top.'
Of course, no marriage equality vote is safe. Just as in 2008 in California and 2009 in Maine, we can expect a barrage of ads telling Mainers, Marylanders, Minnesotans and (M)ashingtonians that this initiative must be defeated to protect "the children." We can only hope that enough voters have been innoculated against the emotional tug of these type of ads this time around. (In Maine, Equality Maine and other groups have gone to great lengths to insure this is the case by having tens of thousands of conversations across the state with those on the fence. In fact today (8/16) "Persuasion Phonebanking" was going on at four locations.)
We also can only hope that something similar to the "Bradley effect" (people telling pollsters -- even computerized ones -- one thing and then voting differently) which seems to have been present in polling taken in 2008 and 2009 on this issue has ceased or become much less of a factor.
Right now, if the polling is accurate, those is favor of equality have significant leads in the three states where people are voting affirmatively in support of allowing same-sex couples to marry, while the state which has negative amendment "defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman" is leaning the other way. This is no accident, as the language presented to the average voter is crucial. In fact battles over the exact summary language to be presented to the voters have made the news in Maine, Minnesota and Washington State and have been hotly contested in court. But those battles are over, and I think the consensus is that the language being presented to voters is favorable.
Still, many people I know are pessimists. They won't believe unless the polls were to show an overwhelming supermajority advantage or until the little check mark appears affirmatively on their computer or television screens on November 6th.
Let's just hope the world is changing fast enough for November 6th, 2012 to be the day it looks like it could be for equality.