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Three states will be voting for marriage equality on November 6th. Three states where the polling shows commanding leads for referenda that will legalize same-sex marriage. If the polls are telling even close to the truth, wedding bells will be ringing in Maine, Maryland and Washington State in the not too distant future.

Here's the polling averages for the three states (pro same-sex marriage numbers first). The polls language vries, but all are asking specifically about the referendum question, not about same-sex marriage in general. Every poll I know of of that nature is being averaged here:

State 2012 Polling Avg Number of Polls After Labor Day Avg Number of Polls
Maine 54.2 - 39.1 8 54.3 - 40.5 4
Maryland 50.3 - 42.1 9 50.7 - 41.7 3
Washington 51.8 - 41.8 8 54.3 - 39.0 4

In a standard election, polling results like this a couple of weeks out would be an almost perfect predictor of the outcome, these averaged results being far beyond the margin of error.

No one, however, is counting their chickens just yet. But first I'd like to dismiss a canard:

Despite opponents of marriage equality and every newspaper article written about these referenda repeating over and over that marriage equality has lost 32 out of 32 times, that's simply not true. What is true is that ballot measures "defining marriage between one man and one woman" have won 32 out of 32 times. But there has never been a ballot measure in which people have voted on whether to "legalize same-sex marriage." Until now. Will that make a difference?

Polling gurus have noticed that in referenda where the question of defining marriage is to be voted on (those 32 aformentioned decisions), and a similar referendum on civil unions that happened in Washington in 2009, voters who are nominally undecided tend to break very strongly against marriage equality. Thus, if you have a poll result of 51-41, with 8% undecided, you might just end up on election day at 51-49, or, worse, 49-51, rather than, say, 54-46.

In California in 2008, the last four polls (all mid to late October) measuring support for Proposition 8 were 47-50, 44-49, 44-52 and 48-45 (avg 45.8 - 49.0). Proposition 8 won 52-48. Same-sex marriage opponents picked up 6% while proponents lost one percent.

In Washington in 2009, a referendum was held to legalize "everything-but-marriage" civil unions. The three polling results (September on) were 51-44, 53-36, and 50-43 (average 51.3 - 41.0), but the vast majority of the undecideds voted against the measure, resulting in a narrow 53-47 victory for civil unions. The yes side gained less than 2% of the undecideds while the no's gained about 6%.

In Maine, also in 2009, a vote to uphold or veto the new marriage equality law was held. The four latest polling results (mid to late October) were 42-53 (veto/uphold), 47-48, 48-48 and 51-47 (average 47.0 - 49.0). The vote totals were 53-47, rescinding the new law. Marriage equality lost 2% from the polling average when all was said and done, while opponents gained 6%, an amount even greater than the number of people who said they were undecided.

In North Carolina in 2012, two PPP polls were conducted in the runup to the referendum held in early May on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, producing results of 54-40 and 55-41. The ultimate result was 61-39. Again, all the undecideds (and more) broke against same-sex marriage, gaining about 6%.

State/year Polling avg. Result
California/2008 46-49 52-48
Washington/2009 51-43 53-47
Maine/2009 47-49 53-47
North Carolina/2012 55-41 61-39

Interesting, eh? The anti same-sex marriage crowd gained just about 6% in every one of these races, while proponents lost one or two percent in three of the votes, gaining 2% in one, for an average of around a loss of 1%.

One can understand why marriage equality proponents are pleased, yet anxious, looking at the polling for 2012.  Maine and Washington have a small cushion above the 50% threshold, but Maryland is hovering right on the edge. If all the apparent undecided in Maryland break against same-sex marriage, we may not know the outcome for weeks until a recount is done. If Maryland marriage equality proponents lose 1 or 2 percent in support, the result could well be a narrow victory for the bigots.

My own feeling is that the culture has changed since even 2009, the results in North Carolina nonwithstanding. The polling data should more accurately reflect reality, and the undecideds should not break so dramatically against marriage equality.  If this is true, all three states look good and a hat trick on election night is a distinct possibility.  If not, if the trends I've noted continue despite the change in culture these last three years and despite the positive tilt to the language of the referendums, then we're looking at a narrow victory in Maine, possibly a nail-biter in Washington, and a narrow loss in Maryland.

So while we are all wondering where our fingernails have gone to while waiting for the pundits to call Ohio on November 6th, remember that some of us will at the same time be plucking our eyebrows out over Maryland and Maine, despite the certainly of their Presidential vote.


And the obligatory note: I'm not looking at Minnesota here because it's not a referendum on marriage equality; it's another "define marriage as between one man and one woman in the state constitution" question. And it would ruin the 'hat trick' theme. Heh.


Hat trick?

45%32 votes
12%9 votes
41%29 votes

| 70 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Washington still leads after attempting adjustment (4+ / 0-)

    Yesterday's poll out of Washington had an interesting experiment. Before adjusting, marriage equality led 54-38 LV; after, 53-47. They asked a couple additional questions about whether the respondent lied or felt uncomfortable about the questions, and used the results to 'unskew' their own poll. I don't know how well that method will work, but it's a creative attempt. And the results are good news.

  •  It is so infuriating and frustrating (6+ / 0-)

    that the polls can't be trusted. In ME, MD and WA if you saw polling numbers like that for a House or Senate race, no one would even entertain the serious possibility that the leading candidate would lose absent a major revelation of the dead girl/live boy variation.

    (Sure, it happens once in a very, very, very rare occasion, just as men are sometimes reported to bite dogs.)

    Hopefully the polls are right and if not, hopefully we'll at least shed some light on why they're wrong so the polling models can be improved.

    Supporter: "Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!" Adlai Stevenson: "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

    by Scott Wooledge on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 09:36:35 AM PDT

  •  I don't think (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, atdnext, bythesea

    that we will completely escape the dynamic that you describe, but i do agree things have changed a bit in recent years on this issue. I think we will probably lose most of the undecideds, however I think (at least I hope) that we will maintain our level of support and maybe gain one or two points with regard to the undecideds. If I'm right and that happens, we will win all three.

  •  Ok, I know it's childish of me (7+ / 0-)

    but I don't care.

    Every time I see that banner ad on this site "Should Obama force gay marriage on everyone?!!!," I click and vote "YES!". Then I give the name of a prominent Republican and I make up a salacious email address. Last time I voted as "Mitt Romney" and my email address was ""

  •  Expect a lot of hate in churches (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on November 4th. Betcha $10,000 every car in every catholic or fundie church parking lot that Sunday gets a hate flier under their wipers. And every sermon will be anti-marriage bullshit.

    But I think times are changing, and changing quickly. Younger people in particular are pro-marriage.

    The tea party NH legislature that voted to gut higher ed spending and cut the cigarette tax, voted for marriage equality. To me that was a huge crack in the hate dam; that a legislature that conservative voted for equality.

    I haven't seen much anti-marriage stuff in Maine this time. Maybe I am just missing it, not yet living there full time.

    There is a libertarian streak in northern New England that helps; they do't think it's the gubmint's concern. And a "who cares?" streak that's even bigger. I know many people who were very much against equality who now are supportive, or at least resigned to its existence.

    Same sex marriage is becoming routine, yesterday's news. At least in New England. Well, except for Little Rhody.

    But still. You are right, polls looked good last time, too.

    So GOTV!!!!!!!!

    A society is judged by how well it cares for those in the dawn of life, the children. By how well it cares for those in the twilight of life, the elderly. And, by how well it cares for those on the edge of life; the poor, the sick, and the disabled.

    by BobBlueMass on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 10:24:53 AM PDT

  •  So far, I'm cautiously optimistic... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, Scott Wooledge, bythesea

    On all 3. I'm starting to think Washington will approve marriage equality by a fairly comfortable margin. I'm still a little concerned about Maine considering what happened last time there... But considering this is a Presidential year, I think they'll pull off a victory there as well.

    Of the 3, Maryland concerns me the most. The polling there has been the closest, and support just barely hovers above 50%. However, there have been 2 big developments there that give me hope. First, President Obama's endorsement of marriage equality earlier this year has led to a HUGE jump in support among African Americans. And secondly, there has been a ton of outreach efforts, and the union & faith outreach campaigns are especially giving me hope there.

  •  I am very hopeful. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, skrekk

    And not just for the people in those states.  If these pass, then the SCOTUS has to confront a positive tide of public opinion as it's most recent bellweather.   If you look at Loving, you see that there was a tide of change already sweeping (parts of) the nation.  We need that tide here.  We need 20% of the population, and 20% of the states, offering marriage equality.  I don't see it as a "magic number", but I do see it as a very positive statement to the Supreme Court that this is the way the world is turning, and the onus of historic opinion against the Roberts Court if they drop the ball will be uppermost, rather than hindmost, in their thoughts (And by "their", I mean Justice Kennedy's).

    Minority rights should never be subject to majority vote.

    by lostboyjim on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 10:56:35 AM PDT

    •  Only 20% of the public supported mixed-race (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      marriage in 1967, so I'm not sure I'd call that a "tide of change".    It wasn't until 1992 that a bare majority favored it.

      SSM is far ahead of that today even if the number of bans in the states is much higher.

  •  The ballot measures are actually 33-1, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scott Wooledge, jpmassar, HoosierD42

    since the bigots lost the first round in 2006 with Arizona's Prop 107.

  •  Your analysis runs into a problem (0+ / 0-)

    in that you are comparing the number of undecided voters shifting to "yes" when it comes to constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage to what could be results of ballot measures affirming support of same-sex marriages.  The major difference is in the ballot language.  The current three states will have language along the lines of "do you support allowing same-sex couples to be legally married?"  On amendments banning such marriages, the language is universally "Do you support defining marriage as only between a man and a woman?"

    The huge difference is one talks about gay people and the other does not, and that is why I think undecideds have heavily break against us in every past test.  The word "only" on the banning amendments is so subtle and yet the entire gay community is encapsulated into that one word, meaning we are forgotten about by voters who don't care or are low information voters and don't even know about the measure.  They walk into the booth, go, oh hey look I should vote to support marriage between men and women, I mean who wouldn't?  This is my personal hypothesis; it's not that late deciders are discriminating, it's that they are stupid and don't get what they are voting on.

    So I'm hopeful that WA, MD, and ME will not have this type of wild swing from polling to actual results because the ballot measure itself doesn't require reading between the lines to understand what they really mean.  Also gives our opponents an easier time to advertise because their message is naturally positive so they can just talk about tradition and men and women being happy while the LGBT side flails around figuring out how to convince people to remember them at the ballot box.

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