Poll: Majority of Calif. voters oppose gay-marriage ban
August 27, 2008
SACRAMENTO – California voters appear ready to reject the same-sex marriage ban on the November ballot even though they remain evenly divided about gay unions, according to a poll released Wednesday.
A majority of likely voters, 54 percent, oppose Proposition 8, which would amend the state Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, compared with 40 percent who support it, according to the Public Policy Institute of California survey.
The result is similar to the findings of a survey released in July by the Field Poll, which found that 51 percent of likely California voters opposed Proposition 8, while 42 percent said they would vote for it.
“It’s early in the campaign season, and in the end the vote on this measure … could be hard to predict,” Mark Baldassare, the institute’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “Overall views on gay marriage have not budged in a year.”
The Public Policy Institute began asking voters how they feel about gay marriage in 2000, the year voters approved Proposition 22, which banned same-sex marriage but did not enshrine it in the Constitution. That year, the poll found 55 percent opposed to gay marriage and 38 percent in favor.
The poll released Wednesday found the state’s likely voters are evenly split on the question – at 47 percent for and against – as they have been for the past three years.
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Why the discrepancy between voters’ general attitudes toward gay marriage and their position on Proposition 8? Baldassare explained that voters may be hesitant to remove a constitutional right, as the initiative would do.
In May, the California Supreme Court ruled Proposition 22 unconstitutional, opening the door to same-sex weddings throughout the state.
Baldassare said Proposition 8 supporters will have to mobilize voters against gay marriage if they are to be successful in November.
“The burden is always on the yes side to convince people there is good reason to vote for the measure,” he said.
Steve Smith, campaign consultant for Equality for All, the coalition leading the No on 8 campaign, said the group was encouraged by the Public Policy Institute poll but still is preparing for an expensive, emotional fight in the coming months.
He expects opponents of same-sex marriage will try to sway public opinion by misleading voters into thinking that churches will be forced to recognize gay relationships if the initiative fails.
Smith said the measure’s supporters are slightly ahead in donations, although each campaign has raised almost $8 million.
Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 8 campaign, cited a previous poll that was more favorable to the initiative. A Los Angeles Times/KTLA poll in May found that 54 percent of voters surveyed backed a gay-marriage ban, while 35 percent opposed it.
Kerns said the institute’s latest results were not surprising, “given Attorney General Jerry Brown’s latest attempt to influence the election” with a new title and summary.
Brown changed the initiative’s title after the Supreme Court ruling to say that it would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to wed. A judge agreed with his right to do so.
The Public Policy Institute poll also found voters divided on two other closely watched initiatives and notes a generally sour mood among Californians.
Those surveyed remain split on Proposition 4, which would amend the Constitution to require that a parent be notified at least 48 hours in advance before a minor seeks an abortion. It found 47 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger still has work to do if he wants to persuade voters to pass Proposition 11, which would create an independent commission of registered voters that would draw districts for state lawmakers and members of the Board of Equalization. Of likely voters, 39 percent support the initiative, with 36 percent opposed and 25 percent undecided.
The poll also found that Californians are pessimistic about the economy and the general direction of the state. A record number of likely voters, 39 percent, named jobs and the economy as their chief concern, followed by the state budget impasse, education, immigration and gas prices. The sour mood over the direction of the state and nation is likely to be a key driver in voters’ presidential preferences, Baldassare said.
Republican lawmakers used the findings to push for an economic-stimulus package and reason to continue their fight against tax increases. Schwarzenegger and Democrats have proposed tax increases to close the state’s $15.2 billion budget deficit.
“Hardworking Californians clearly want lawmakers and the governor to focus on our economy and encouraging more job creation, which Republicans have been fighting for all year long,” Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines said in a statement.
Most likely voters surveyed, 84 percent, considered the state budget impasse a big problem, the highest since May 2004, when voters agreed to borrow billions to fill the budget gap during Schwarzenegger’s first full year in office. The state has been without a budget since its fiscal year started July 1.
To close the deficit, 44 percent of likely voters would opt for a mix of cuts and taxes, 38 percent would cut spending, 8 percent would increase taxes and 4 percent would borrow money.
The institute surveyed 2,001 California residents, including 1,047 likely voters, in English and Spanish from Aug. 12-19. The poll has a margin of sampling of error of 2 percentage points for all residents and 3 percentage points for likely voters.