Obama Voters Made the Difference for Prop 8

In one of the most heated political campaigns on November 4, California’s Proposition 8 passed, overturning the recent California Supreme Court decision, which had allowed same-sex marriages in the state. The proposition passed 52.3% to 47.7% with over 10 million ballots cast. In a recent survey of exit polls, analysts found that what made the difference in the election was the surge of new voters who came out for Barack Obama.

Ben Smith of Politico.com writes, November 8, 2008:

One of the few notable losses for the left on Tuesday came in California, where Proposition 8, which “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry,” passed by a bit more than three percentage points, even as — or perhaps because — Barack Obama won the state by a whopping 24 points.

Much of that margin came from a surge of about half a million new black voters turning out to cast ballots for Obama in the safely blue state. Exit polls showed black voters favored the ban by a whopping 70-30 percent, while whites were slightly opposed and Hispanics evenly split.

Fallout over the apparent black-gay split within the Democratic coalition has been fierce, with Dan Savage claiming black homophobia, reports of racial slurs and abuse directed at blacks at a marriage equality rally on Thursday, and Andrew Sullivan, among others, calling for calm..

The Los Angeles Times declared the issue a minefield on November 8, 2008, citing for example African American voter comments:

The exit poll didn’t ask voters why they voted the way they did. But Madison Shockley, pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad and among the roughly one-third of blacks who opposed Proposition 8, said the vote was understandable. “Black folks go to church, probably more than the Caucasian population, and the churches they go to tend to be very traditional.”

Los Angeles resident Christopher Hill, 50, said he was motivated by religion in supporting Proposition 8. Civil rights, he said, “are about getting a job, employment.”

Gay marriage, he said, is not: “It’s an abomination against God.”

Barack Obama had publicly come out in rejection of Proposition 8 in the days prior to the election, a position different than in the past. It appeared that the former Obama had more sway over Californian voters than the Obama prior to the election. Supporters of the Proposition used Obama in some of their advertisements, citing Obama’s former views that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Some pundits and politicians are writing off Proposition 8 as a result of severe misunderstandings. Nancy Pelosi felt many voters did not understand the initiative.

“Unfortunately, I think people thought they were making a statement about what their view of same-sex marriage was,” the San Francisco Democrat said. “I don’t know if it was clear that this meant that we are amending the Constitution to diminish freedom in our state.”

Having read the Proposition, I have to admit that it was worded a bit strangely, but such an important issue (and the over 70 million dollars spent on discussing the proposition) should offer very little room for arguing voter confusion. At worst, Pelosi should be arguing that the millions were poorly spent.

In the end, this just goes to show that voters come from all parts of the political spectrum. What this spells for the future, remains to be seen.