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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Study: Millions Spent on Campaigns For and Against Gay Marriage Totally Pointless

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 1:57 PM

click to enlarge wedding_cake.jpg
A New York University professor analyzed dozens of ballot measures concerning gay marriage over the last 20 years and came up with one mighty conclusion in a study released today: expensive campaigns for and against legal recognition of gay couples do jack squat to change voters' opinions.

The report -- commissioned by the gay marriage-supporting Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund -- was prepared by Patrick Egan, a NYU public opinion expert, who analyzed 167 pre-election surveys on 32 ballot measures since 1988. He found that people usually do not change in their opinions on gay marriage or domestic partnership during the course of a campaign.

The take-away message: if you want to change hearts and minds, it's gotta happen before the ballot campaign season begins.

"This underscores the simple reality that in the heat of a ballot

campaign, it's very difficult to move someone on marriage equality --

voters are being hit with messages from both sides," says Geoff Korrs,

the executive director of Equality

California, in a press release today. "As a result, it is essential

that we have majority support for marriage equality before the final months of a campaign."

The report also found that polls

consistently underestimated the amount of voters who would support bans

on legal recognition of same-sex couples. "The share of voters projected

to support a ban on same-sex marriage is typically about three

percentage points less than the actual level of support on election

day," the release stated.

Interestingly, the report disproved

two theories usually advanced to explain the gap between polling and the

final election results. Some have said that people feel pressured to

give a pro-gay response to pollsters in LGBT-friendly states, yet the

report found that the gap was consistent whether polling was done in

live interviews or by an automated

system.

Also, some have said voters are confused during polls by

what a "no" and "yes" vote means. (Remember those commercials where

Margaret Cho explained to the old lady that a "no" vote on Prop. 8 was

actually a "yes" to gay marriage?) But the report showed that the gap

became no smaller over the course of a typical campaign, indicating that

voter confusion was not at fault.

What accounts for the gap?

Nobody seems to know, but it means gay marriage supporters need to lead by a "healthy margin" in the polls, Egan says. Three points isn't going to do it.   

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Lauren Smiley

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