Sunday, November 30, 2008

Prop 8 by the Numbers

[Disclaimer: The numbers of votes and percentages come from the California Secretary of State. The number crunching (comparing Presidential and Prop 8 votes) is my own.]

The Text of the Proposed Law:
Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution, to read:
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

The Numbers:

Presidential Race (CA):
Obama: 8,063,473 votes (61.1%)
McCain: 4,902,278 votes (37.1%)
Other: 248,081 votes

Prop 8:
Yes: 6,838,107 votes (52.3%)
No: 6,246,463 votes (47.7%)


What the numbers mean:
13,213,832 votes were cast in the Presidential race in CA.
13,084,570 votes were cast on either side of Prop 8.
This is slightly less than in the presidential race, but very similar. In fact, fewer people declined to vote on Prop 8 than voted for “other” in the Presidential race.

If every person who voted for McCain also voted for Prop 8 (clearly an exaggeration, but it is reasonable to assume that a very large percentage did so), 1,935,829 Obama supporters must have voted for proposition 8. Yes, qualitatively we knew this was the case, but seeing that number has different sort of impact. (I would add that this is accurate even taking into account those who voted for “other” as it is likely that the vast majority, being more liberal on this issue than the general population (green party, peace & freedom, etc), voted against prop 8).

Recent Historical Context:
In 2000 Proposition 22 proposed to limit marriage to that between a man and woman in CA. This was at the time a legal fiction since there was already only marriage between straight couples but it was seen as preventative. In addition, this was a normal ballot measure, not a constitutional amendment, and was overturned by the court, along with other relevant statutory law, in May 2008, thus making same-sex marriage legal in CA and precipitating the current Prop 8.

Prop 22 passed easily with Yes: 4,618,673 votes (61.4%) compared to No: 2,909,370 votes (38.6%). Clearly there were many fewer voters in this election (It was the presidential primary in March 2000). Moreover, a majority of them were Republicans (4,153,693 voted for Republican candidates in the primary compared to 3,272,023 for Democratic candidates).

So, The relevance of the Prop 22 story is two-fold: If you simply look at the percentages, well, we’ve come a long way – to move from 61% to 52% in 8 years is actually remarkable. This extent of this change is undercut by the different distribution (republican/democrat) in voters (and quantity of votes) in the two elections. Nonetheless, I think that is still indicative of an ongoing cultural shift (this is my own conjecture, not proved by the numbers, but one can make a strong argument for this understanding).

[And next, on Postcards from Outer Space, a more qualitative look at Prop 8 and CA politics.]


Aliza said...

i have a few questions, which maybe you would get to in the next post--
who was on the presidential ballot as third party candidates? were they in fact candidates to the left of Obama?

i know you are pointing out that some of the people that voted for Obama voted fro Prop 8- that is not too surprising to me, because i think the differences between mccain and obama in this election were more about economic and other non "values" issues and there were probably a lot of people that voted for obama who might be more conservative on those issues. what do you think? (more say, than the difference between Bush and Kerry or Gore)

Sunkist Miss said...

Aliza said:

who was on the presidential ballot as third party candidates? were they in fact candidates to the left of Obama?

Two points on this:

1) Most of them were to the left of Obama at least on social issues. The other candidates were:
Peace and Freedom (Nader): 105,375 votes.
Green Party (Cynthia McKinney): 37,432 votes.
Liberterian (Bob Barr): 65,654 votes.
American Independent (Alan Keyes): 39,620.

Clearly not all of these are left of Obama, but the vast majority (vote-wise) are. And since any "other" voters who voted for Prop 8 should numerically be much more than balanced out by any McCain voters
who voted against it, I'm pretty sure my number is very close to accurate.

2) Even if I were wrong, and every single person who voted for "other" candiates, plus every single McCain supporter voted for Prop 8, that STILL leaves 1,687,748 Obama supporters at an absolute minimum who had to vote for it.

Thus we can say with high confidence that 1.7 - 2 MILLON California voters voted both for Obama and Prop 8. I think that is a highly significant number, which is useful even separate from the more qualitative questions.

As for your second question, I'll get to that later as it is more qualitative, except for one point: I am not pointing out that some people voted for Obama and prop 8, I am pointing out that a couple million people voted for Obama and Prop 8 (approximately 25% minimum of Obama supporters).

katrina said...

You have been tagged!