A week ago, a coalition of groups made up of mainly LGBT organizations and primarily POC groups, released the Prepare to Prevail statement which warns against a rush to the ballot in 2010 to repeal Prop 8.
This statement rocked the California LGBT population. Courage Campaign, one of the largest progressive grassroots organizations in the state rigorously fighting for marriage equality, is on record as supporting the community for 2010 since a majority of the memberships voted for it.
Equality California (EQCA), who helped spearhead the No on 8 campaign, is also on record as supporting 2010 with its membership in agreement but has held off on taking an official stance. As of late, they have begun to question the wisdom of returning the marriage equality question back to the voters so soon.
Marc Solomon, Marriage Director for EQCA, posted last week that he and the organization will be going to seven political consultants with a wide variety of experience, three of whom are LGBT and two of these are married. Unite the Fight questioned this tactic, pointing out that many in the community felt it was consultants' advice that hid the LGBT population from the voters' eyes in media.
On Monday, Marc posted the consultants' responses to the 2010 vs. 2012 question, and even addressed concerns about using consultants at all (and directly responded to Unite the Fight under our comments section) saying, "I understand, following the No on 8 loss, the skepticism that many people have about [consultants]. I get it. At the same time, it can be helpful to at least consider the thinking of those who have been the most successful at running state-wide initiative campaigns in California and elsewhere."
Late into the night, I read each of the consultants responses to not only the Binder/Simon polling funded by a large LGBT coalition called Poll 4 Equality, but also past polls to help project what 2010 or 2012 and even beyond may hold for us, and what year may be the best to return to the ballot. (They even acknowledged the skepticism of their participation.)
Here are key excerpts of what they had to say. Click on the full analysis links for a PDF of their entire assessments. Read each of their bios.
Mark Armour (Supports 2012 - full analysis)
"By analyzing turnout scenarios, demographics and research from the Field poll and from David Binder and Amy Simon, we have identiﬁed a number of reasons why 2012 could be a stronger time to go to the ballot than 2010. Speciﬁcally, we believe that the 2012 ballot could create a more favorable turnout of pro-gay marriage voters, that there is a need for more time to raise the approximately $50 million campaign budget required to win, and that there is a need for additional time to persuade soft opponents and audiences through voter outreach and media."
In response to the "we can't wait" argument - "losing twice at the ballot in California is not something you can recover from, and based on the demographics of 2012 vs 2010 and considering the resource challenge, it appears that 2012 offers a stronger chance for victory."
Mark broke down his response into four helpful segments:
I. The Importance of Turnout to the Timing of an Initiative Campaign
- 1. Presidential ballot vs non-Presidential ballot - younger voters and more liberal will be out for 2012 presidential election.
- 2. Generational replacement - "One key factor that will affect turnout, and therefore the timing of the initiative, is the phenomenon of generational replacement, where voters born in each successive decade are more accepting of gay marriage than in the preceding one. In 2012, it is likely that there will be fewer older anti-gay marriage voters and more younger pro-gay marriage voters than in both 2008 and 2010."
III. The Need for Time to Conduct Outreach and Persuasion - As the Binder/Simon poll shows, with so few voters persuadable, victory in the next initiative will also require the persuasion of soft opponents and “conﬂicted voters” instead of just undecided voters.
IV. What needs to be done
- A decision needs to be made on moving forward on a speciﬁc ballot, and a campaign plan and team need to be put in place.
- Fundraising must begin for initial outreach and education as well as for the campaign.
- Outreach to soft, conﬂicted voters and ethnic communities must begin.
- Media should be used to educate and reach out to voters in the time before the election. Based on the Binder/Simon polling, messages should show that gay and lesbian couples and their children have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else and that it is unfair to deprive them or their children of dignity, responsibility and security of marriage.
In her analysis, Sue lists facts. Here are a few:
- The California electorate is angry about the budget crisis and worried about the direction the country and state are headed. In this political climate, people tend to vote NO on ballot measures. We have to get a Yes vote!
- Anti gay-marriage forces can get more people to vote in a low turnout environment than we can. If you look at the voters by age likely to vote in a 2010 election, people over 60 represent 37% of likely voters versus 27% in a 2012 general election. Our strength lies in getting young people to vote – in November 2012 voters under 30 will represent 20% of the electorate but in 2010 they will only represent 7% of the electorate. By 2012 there will be 776,000 new voters under 21 years old added to the voter rolls (our best group). On the other end of the age spectrum, there will be fewer older voters – more than 122,000 voters will die (the opposition’s most reliable voting bloc) Take a look at historic spreadsheet below.
- But the most important reason for deferring a huge push until 2012 is DEMOGRAPHICS. Waiting for two years more means 9+% more young voters becoming eligible to vote and a 5% drop-off in senior voters.
Rick Clausen (2012 or later - full analysis)
"Rather than 2010 or 2012, the question should be “when can we win?” That should drive the debate. While the community may not want to hear this, absent an aggressive education and outreach campaign, even 2012 could be problematic."
"However, while a victory in 2010 isn’t impossible, it appears likely implausible. Even your own polling shows this issue in a dead heat – and behind where you were before the Proposition 8 vote in November. Currently, you would need nearly 60% of swing voters to vote with you just to achieve a 50% yes vote. Additionally, public polling during both the previous campaigns showed that people tended to indicate more support for gay marriage than they did when they punched their ballots."
"If you do UNSUCCESSFULLY undertake this issue at the ballot in 2010, this will further erode public support on the issue and make it harder for future efforts to succeed. And rather than looking at a 2012 fight, you may be forced to look at 2014, 2016 or beyond before a ballot victory would become viable. For these reasons, we recommend spending time and resources to lay the groundwork for a successful reversal of Proposition 8 when conditions are right."
Jill Darling (2012 and beyond - consulting numerous polls - member of LGBT community and married - full analysis)
"The question I first posed for myself was exactly what is under discussion here: Do the numbers tell us that the campaign should take a vote to overturn Proposition 8 back to the ballot in 2010, or in 2012? After looking at this data and trying to work out a definitive answer to that question, I quickly found that there is no way to do so. I don’t believe that 2010 or 2012 is the first question that needs to be answered."
"There is evidence that not much has changed in public opinion on same-sex marriage in several years."
"Did the 2008 campaign move voters? Are the post-elections efforts having any effect? Nothing measurable, as of May."
"The arguments for going back to the ballot in 2010, for getting right back into the fight while passions are high and motivation is strong, are undeniably compelling and I’m familiar and sympathetic with the arguments making the case that now is the time. However, it does not make sense to me to go back to the polls in 2010 or even 2012 unless we are prepared to win. Those who oppose same-sex marriage have a running start. They won an election six months ago. Recent surveys show that they have more supporters. They come to the fight well armed with election-tested messages that carry potent (if misleading) content able to fire basic protective emotions that pull conflicted voters to their side. We won’t win until we work out how to craft messages that effectively counter these appeals to fear and uncertainty and craft messages that have a positive effect on conflicted voters to help them feel comfortable supporting same-sex marriage."
"When our messages are working, when we have vocal public leadership support, when momentum is with us, we will see measurable change.
"The decision as to when to take the issue back to the voters should be made when the campaign is supplied with well-tested messages, resources, and real evidence that voter inertia can be overcome."
Dave Fleischer (Careful not to say no to 2010, but it comes down to being a no - member of LGBT community and works with the LA Gay and Lesbian Center's Vote for Equality - full analysis)
Dave breaks down his analysis in points.
"First, though money is vital, these campaigns can’t be won by money alone."
"Second, though polling is extraordinarily helpful, victory can’t be predicted by polling alone."
"Third, when we lose an election, one of the valuable pieces of information we gain is the margin by which we lost. In the case of Prop 8, we lost by roughly 600,000 votes. What this tells us is the scale on which we need to do better to reverse the result. We need to have a strategy that will, minimally, produce 600,000 new votes for us – or change 300,000 minds – or some combination of both – in a year where voter turnout could be comparable to what we saw in 2008. In a year where voter turnout is likely to be lower, the absolute number might be lower than the 600,000 new votes – or the 300,000 changed minds – but we can know that number with a fair degree of certainty.
- Do we have a strategy to gain that number of votes; and
- Are we on track to execute that strategy, so we can see if we are likely to gain the necessary number of votes by our deadline (election day)?
"Therefore, for us to win on marriage in California, it seems likely that our strategy will have to include an important component of voter persuasion. We will need to persuade some who voted against us in 2008 to reconsider. We will have to get many – perhaps as many as 300,000 – to change their minds. Perhaps a lesser number will do, if we also greatly increase our ability to turn out our base. But it’s fair to guess that voter persuasion on a significant scale will be an essential component of any path to victory.
"Fourth, our difficulties with persuasion include, but also go beyond, the limitations of polling. The fact is, it’s not easy to persuade voters to alter their views on marriage for gay and lesbian couples." (He goes on to say there is no silver bullet in persuading voters.)
"There are multiple reasons why polling, and our gut, may overstate the power of some messages. One reason is that we sometimes fail to fully consider or pose the arguments the opposition will make against us."
"For example, the latest poll includes encouraging numbers suggesting the possible appeal of a religious exemption. But it could easily overstate the real-world impact of the new language in the face of a predictably vigorous opposition campaign that focuses on children.
"Another, related problem: Our arguments tend to be rational. For instance, the religious exemption idea is one more rational argument we are now considering adding to our arsenal. Even when we seek to express our rational arguments emotionally, part of their power comes from their rationality. They appeal to reason. But our opponents’ arguments are not rational. They are almost purely emotional; they attempt to arouse disgust and fear."
"Fifth, the most scarce resource in every campaign is time."
"In most of these ballot measure campaigns on marriage, our community is put in a financially brutal position by our opposition, because they control the timetable. But we control the timetable now. Let’s use that advantage, and return to the ballot when we’re financially ready."
Gale Kaufman (Believe we cannot afford to lose whenever we go back. 2012 may even be too soon. - full analysis)
Data: "From what I’ve seen, there is nothing in the current data that says the California electorate has changed their opinion dramatically on this issue since last November."
PREPARATION: "By asking me if I think 2010 is an option, you are asking me if I think we are ready to go right now. To qualify an initiative for next year’s ballot (it’s really already too late for June so I’m assuming we are talking about November) we need to have it ready to be submitted to the Attorney General’s office by no later than the end of September. We should ask ourselves, are we ready for that? Has the perfect initiative been drafted? Is everyone who should be consulted on the legal language, not to mention whatever nuances we want to add, signed off? Is the campaign structure in place to sustain the process that goes along with the beginning stages of an initiative campaign? I pose these questions because I think I know the answer. And I think the answer is No. If you’ve taken the responsibility to win a Yes campaign, you can’t leave any of these items to chance."
"So moving forward in 2010 doesn’t seem to be an option and preparation for 2012 should be happening right now."
ORGANIZATION: "I don’t think anyone would argue with me that only one Yes campaign can be sustained moving forward. That means bringing together the many disparate groups, all of whom, with the best of intentions, think that they are the best vehicle for victory. It’s impossible for me to see a way to harness all of the incredible energy, emotion, intelligence, expertise and belief in this issue in such a small amount of time, if we were to move forward in 2010."
ATMOSPHERICS: "Finally, at the moment the California electorate is in a collective horrible mood. The last time I saw polling numbers on “Is California going in the right direction?” the Yes number was under 10%. Going to the ballot with a Yes campaign of any kind right now – while voters have been inundated with initiatives – especially on a subject that they have recently voted on – is a particular risk."
GUT: "For what it is worth, my “gut” is saying that 2010 is not the right time."
Richie Ross (Focuses on the numbers, doesn't try convince for 2012, but 2010 looks bad - full analysis)
"Can we get 300,000 [votes] switched? And how does time impact that?" (See Fleischer's analysis on where the 300,000 comes from)
"In 2012, we will have a new batch of 18, 19, 20, and 21-year-olds that will add 515,875 new likely voters. If 60% of them vote with us and half of the “swing” voters join them, we can expect 353,374 NEW supporters among likely voters. Our net growth (new voters with us minus new voters against us) will be 162,501.
"At the same time, records indicate that about 110,000 older voters die each year. In 2012, 440,000 of the 2008 voters will have died. If we again apply the poll to that raw number, our natural opposition will shrink by 101,200 of total likely voters.
"I don’t present these facts as an argument for 2012, but rather to allow the community to consider them in arriving at a decision."
Ross finishes his analysis with a strong suggestion that the next campaign be more "culturally" and not "politically", emphasizing that the campaign be a "campaign of stories told by the gay and straight families who live next door to each other."
Armed with these seven analysis, Marc Solomon says, "The next step from EQCA is for me to share my own best thinking, based on all these inputs, on how and when we should return to the ballot. It will include an approach to a 2010 ballot initiative and a 2012 ballot initiative, and an analysis of both options."
He says input and thoughts from the community are encouraged.
With the Leadership Summit coming this Saturday in San Bernardino, this will definitely be another point of discussion when determining when we return to the ballot. Many are hoping a decision will be reached at the summit. (The summit is open to all, but you must RSVP!)
However, another point of view popped up yesterday from David Mixner, historic LGBT advocate and activist who called for the National Equality March, which spurred its inception. On his blog yesterday, he criticizes the, "Oh Lord, Not Now" movement, avoiding specific developments, such as the Prepare to Prevail statement, but referring to the overall movement of delay taking effect across the nation and in DC. It seems poignant here in California too.
"The cabal of powerful decision makers wants everything to be safe, clean and perfect before moving. Don't upset anyone, don't jump ahead of ourselves and most of all don't deviate from a well-laid plan that hopefully will eventually lead to victory. Every one of our allies has to be comfortable, the polls have to show us way ahead, and proof of victory has to be assured before trying anything new. The unpredictable grassroots could be destructive and create instability.
"Sounds pretty good doesn't it? Except that it doesn't fit any model of success that I have seen in my near 50 years of organizing. In fact, my journey has proven to me that the unpredictable often is just the stimulus that movements need; victory often comes from an unplanned event that organizers could not have pulled off if they had worked years to do it.
"Most historic movements are filled with grassroots moments that propel that movement to new heights. It could be a Rosa Parks who was just tired and didn't want to surrender her seat or the automobile workers who occupied their factories in the 1930's to the dismay of traditional labor leaders or a simple unplanned walk to the sea to get salt that appalled more traditional Indian liberation leaders.
"The LGBT community has just experienced such a moment."
With an equal amount of people calling for immediate action and another side calling for an educational campaign that will eventually lead to a ballot in the undetermined future, with data and history supporting each side, where do you stand?
This is not an easy question to answer. But each voice matters and we're running out of time. Unite the Fight will be attending the Summit and will express comments made here, no matter which position you take. Let's hear your voice.