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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Prop 8: Education, Income, Age the Keys

In the wake of the narrow passage of the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in California, there was a lot of unhappy talk about African-American Obama voters making the difference. But a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California looks at the results from various optics, and concludes that educational and income levels, and age, were the most important variables in determining the vote.
Indeed, there’s an extraordinarily strong correlation on these factors. Those with a high school education or less favored Prop 8 by a 69-31 margin; those with a college degree opposed it 57-43; and those with some college but no degree supported it 57-43. It’s the same story on income: those earning under $40,000 supported Prop 8 by a 63-37 margin; those earning over $80,000 opposed it 55-45; and those in the middle supported it by the same 52-48 margin as the electorate as a whole. Least surprisingly, voters under the age of 35 opposed Prop 8 by a 57-43 margin; those 55 and older backed it 56-44; and those in-between split evenly.
For some reason, the PPIC report doesn’t provide a breakout for African-Americans (though a variety of experts have disputed the 70% “yes” findings of the exit polls), but it does show Latinos supporting Prop 8 by a 61-39 margin. Evangelical Christians backed the initiative by an astounding 85-15 margin, while Catholics supported it by a less-overwhelming 60-40 margin. The ideological polarization was typical: 17% of self-described liberals voted for Prop 8, while 17% of self-described conservatives voted against it, and moderates split evenly.
One way of interpreting these results is to suggest that “low-information voters” swung the results in response to superior (and also factually misleading) pro-8 ads, or perhaps superior GOTV operations. But in any event, making it all about race, or about the betrayal of one element of the progressive coalition by another, would not appear to be warranted by the facts.

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