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Field Poll Released Today Still Shows Prop 8 to Eliminate Same Sex Marriage Rights in California Behind 44% to 49% Despite Massive Advertising Blitz


The California Field Poll showing Proposition 8 behind with 44% support and 49% oppositionthat was released earlier today is making the headlines of the state’s newspapers—and in fact is national news. These results are remarkably similar to a poll released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California that showed it with the same 44% support and with a level of opposition--52%--that is within the margin of error of both of these polls. These are the two most respected public polling organizations in the Golden State.

I would advise all interested in this issue—the civil rights issue of this era—to read these polls carefully. It looks like Prop 8 is headed for defeat, having failed to gain the majority support it will need to pass, despite a heavy early advertising blitz mostly in support of it. The clear message of these polls is that turnout is going to affect the outcome—which, if close—we will not know perhaps until weeks after the election when all votes will be counted.

The newspaper headlines and the shortened versions on most of the state’s broadcast media talk about one side or the other gaining or losing. If you look at the Field Poll, we are surprisingly at about the same level as this issue polled when they took a survey in July. Then, there was 42% in support and 51% opposed with the same 7% as today “undecided.” In between, in September, the results were 55% opposed and 38% in support. What this observer takes from all of this is that this measure was slated for defeat and that advertising has brought it back to being in range, but still falling short.

All that being said, there are some profound divisions between Democrats and Republicans , Obama and McCain voters, coastal and inland voters, those with different political ideologies, by age, education, religion, and perhaps by race, on this question. For sure, there is going to be a battle for the minds and hearts of the 7% or so who are undecided. But elections are won or lost, we must not forget, by those who make it to the polls and cast votes on items on the ballot.

There are many ways this could get dicey. As to turnout, the newer, younger, and day of election voters are key. And having these voters go down the ballot to the propositions and to cast a vote on Prop 8 is going to be key. Turnout could be affected by early predictions of an Obama blowout or declarations that he is the winner as polls close 4 p.m. California time. Just ask anyone who was working to get the vote out in 1980 when Jimmy Carter conceded defeat when it was about 6 p.m. out here.

Field’s results have an overall margin of error of 3.3% and were based on a sample of 966 “likely voters.” While the margins of error are higher with the smaller subgroups identified, the data shows Prop 8 winning by 50% to 44% with the 22% of expected voters who had already voted as of the time the poll was conducted (October 18 to 28). Field expects that 47% of the electorate will be vote-by-mail or early voters—and within these voters there appears to be a 48% to 45% lead for the yes vote. I say appears because the margin of error is higher with this smaller sample. As to the 53% of what are called “precinct voters”—those who go to their polling place on election day and cast a vote the old fashioned way, Field has the vote going against Prop 8 by a 52% to 41% margin. These votes are needed for the no side to win.

There is a huge divide by party. Democrats oppose Prop 8 by 65% to 28% while Republicans support it 75% to 20%. Non-partisan/others oppose it 60% to 31%. Only 5$ of Republicans are undecided while 7% of Democrats are in that category and 9% of those not affiliated with either party.

73% of those voting for Obama are predicted to vote no and 84% of those voting for McCain are expected to vote yes. Self described strongly conservative voters are in support by 87% to 10%, matched by strongly liberal voters 86% to 10% who are voting no. The opposition fairs a little better, getting 29% of the moderately conservative votes while the yes side gets 19% of the moderately liberal voters. In the often key segment of the electorate—the 40% who say they are middle-of-the-road, the breakdown is 51% opposed and 40% in support.

There is a mirrored set of a divide between coastal county voters who are opposed 54% to 39% and inland county voters who are in support by 57% to 37%. Coastal county voters make up 71% of the overall expected electorate.

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And there is a huge divide between the over 65year old voters who make up 19% of the expected vote and who are in support of Prop 8 by a wide margin and the under 65 year old where all age groupings have a majority in opposition.

Field also has a testing of how voters respond to the major arguments in support and in opposition to Prop 8. The campaigns undoubtedly have tested their message with their own polls and focus groups. We’ll be seeing the advertising pitches made accordingly. And they will ramp up. Sources tell me that there is close to $2 million being snapped up by the yes on 8 campaign or allied groups for the time remaining—6 days. And that the yes side plans to spend $6 million on ad buys—presumably including the cable purchases.

The one really telling result of Field’s results on arguments is that by a margin of 60% to 32% voters are rejecting the yes on 8’s claim that if Prop 8 is not approved, the public schools could be required to teach kids that same sex marriage is as acceptable as traditional marriage in Califonria. Even those planning on voting yes on 8 are divided on this one—with 48% agreeing and 45% disagreeing with this argument. Not surprisingly, those voting no reject it. But tellingly, 68% of that undecided group are rejecting it as well with only 16% agreeing with it. Even with a small subsample, the results here are loud and clear.

Frank Russo

And by large 58% to 34% margin, voters agree that matters relating to the definition of marriage should not be written into the constitution.

Read the pollfor more results.

By Frank Russo, Publisher, The California Progress Report

Originally published onThe California Progress Report. Republished with permission.

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