Friday, October 2, 2009

Nate Silver: Odds Are 3 to 1 Against Maine's Marriage Equality Ban

Numbers guru Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight takes a closer look at the polling numbers in Maine and throws them into a regression model based on several variants.
  1. The degree of religiosity in a state based on a 2008 Gallup poll. Maine is the third least religious in the Union.
  2. The year an initiative is up for a vote (off-year elections bring out more conservatives)
  3. If an initiative bans only marriage equality and not civil unions, too.
In regards to Maine, Nate calculates also the factor that Question 1 does not attempt to amend the state's constitution, but only veto the legislature's new marriage equality bill. The fact the law came into being through the legislature and not a court mandate is also weighted.
Throw Maine's numbers into the model, and we come up with an estimated level of support for the ban of 43.5 percent, with 56.5 percent opposed. In other words, the model's prediction is that the ban will fail. The standard error of the forecast (not the margin of error, which is larger) is 5.2 points. This implies that the marriage ban only has about an 11 percent chance of passing.
These numbers, however, are before the factors are weighed in. After this, Nate says the odds against the same-sex marriage ban passing are 3 to 1.

What's absent in Nate's calculations is the consideration of the other controversial initiatives on November's ballot, including Maine's school consolidation repeal, which some believe will drive more Yes on 1 supporters to vote.

These numbers are cautious optimism at best. Even stronger ads with strict message discipline and bold endorsements, a big Get Out the Vote (GOTV) drive and more fund-raising is key to keeping the momentum to a big win.

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