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What If We Asked Voters to ‘Not Prohibit’ Instead of ‘Permit’ Marriage?


Hey, it turns out that the words you use matter when you ask folks whether they support gay marriage! Unbelievable, we know. But that’s what stat whiz Nate Silver gleaned when looking at polls that framed marriage as something the government should allow or something the government should not prohibit. See the difference? Americans are more likely to support same-sex marriage legislation if they’re asked whether the government has a right to regulate it (versus keeping it a private matter); support declines when you phrase the scenario where the government “permits” two dudes to wed.

It’s that crucial difference that has Silver slamming Equality California on the way it phrased, literally, the situation.

And it’s part of the same language debate that was, at least in part, at the center of the “secret” Poll 4 Equality survey, which quizzed Californians to learn which terminology generated the most pro-marriage support.

Funny how Gallup and ABC/Washington Post surveys managed to score the same data … and publish it in newspapers.

(Photo: UCC)

By:           editor editor
On:           Jun 11, 2009
Tagged: , , ,

    • grimwig

      Asking people to vote on “not prohibiting” marriage equality isn’t necessarily the right idea. That sort of language might lead people to get confused and vote the wrong way (i.e. “no, they shouldn’t prohibit it: vote no”), as I know has been the case in a couple of states where bans were passed and people voted for it without realizing.

      Also, we shouldn’t try to trick people into giving us our rights. If we are forced to win them at the ballot box, we should do so honestly. The support is already rising at an incredible rate.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 11:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • stevenelliot

      what if we asked the california voters to seperate Cali into West California (the coast) and East California (the interior)?? Sacramento then becoming a duel capital.

      We’d then see how quickly East California would wither from lack of financial strength. The interior of Cali loves to talk about the corrupt Liberal coast but without the Coast, the interior is poorer than Mississippi…..

      Off subject I know, but any referendum is possible in this nut-case state.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 11:49 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dr. Pedantic
      Dr. Pedantic

      Steven, it’s not that simple. Much of the “Coast” (including Orange and San Diego Counties) is pretty conservative, too, and remember that we lost even in LA County.

      And we can’t get cute with language like “not prohibit.” Our best chance was last year, when all were saying was, hey, let’s keep the status quo. We thought we’d gained a lot of ground when the language of the initiative was changed to say Prop 8 would “eliminate” the right to same-sex marriage, but where did that get us? And now we have to tell voters that they need to overturn two elections on marriage equality, and a resounding Supreme Court decision against us.

      We still have a long way to go, and the language of a theoretical ballot initiative is the least of our issues.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 12:15 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alex

      @stevenelliot: Uh, last I check, they’re all in a boat that’s sinking like a titanic. I believe the state government have enough money to last until July 31.

      Best of luck, Arnold.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 12:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tarcash

      Using a double negative to confuse people is not the right solution.

      #1 civil rights should not be up for a vote. California’s supreme court has damaged the equal protection clause beyond belief.

      #2 if our rights are being violated, we need to start practicing civil disobedience. You have to be willing to stand up, go to jail, and do everything you need to peacefully to get your rights.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 12:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • beergoggles

      If civil rights aren’t up for vote, why not amend the CA constitution to say that civil rights cannot be taken away by vote? Or even better, that taking away civil rights constitutes a revision of the CA constitution?

      That could pretty much be used to nullify prop 8 or am I missing something?

      Jun 11, 2009 at 1:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • stevenelliot

      @Alex: We’re in a sinking boat because the Coast supports the interior. If the interior wants to be soooo indepedent, let them sink alone.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 1:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stitch

      @beergoggles: the thing you’re missing is that if they ammend the state constitution to prevent “civil rights” from being taken away with a vote, someone then has to define what is and is not a civil right. WE think marriage is a civil right, but others do not see it that way. It just shifts the debate in a distracting direction.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 2:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • beergoggles

      @Stitch: The CA supreme court already defined marriage as a civil right. So unless someone decides the amend the CA constitution to say that marriage is not a civil right, the supreme court decision on it would stand.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dick Mills
      Dick Mills

      Well, no one in the Radical Religious Reich reads newspapers, so the secret is still safe.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • andy_d

      @stevenelliot: Love the Freudian slip – “duel” capitol. BTW c-a-p-i-t-a-l refers to money or other assets or means of funding.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 7:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • M. Bergeron
      M. Bergeron

      capital is a city, capitol is a building.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 8:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • galefan2004

      Polling isn’t a perfect science? Who knew? I think the only poll that actually matters is the final one on election day. Until then, polls are a waste of time and money. Even “soft” sciences based heavily on polling data such as sociology and psychology will tell you that you need triplicate polls to try to garnish a consensus instead or running one poll and using it as evidence.

      Jun 11, 2009 at 9:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hyhybt

      You don’t want to change how amendments are done until *after* P8 is reversed!@beergoggles:

      Jun 12, 2009 at 4:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • stevenelliot

      @andy_d: should I slap you or laugh with you…..The written word doesnt convey either your intent of rudeness or of humor….this isnt a spelling bee

      Jun 12, 2009 at 7:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • derek

      I wouldn’t necessarily advocate sitting around doing nothing on a local level, but I think the issue of gays marrying is ultimately one for the US Supreme Court. It’s a national civil rights issue and isn’t one that should be left up to the popular, or even 2/3rds vote on the state or national level. If the popular vote was appropriate for determining civil rights in this country Rosa Parks would still be sitting at the back of the bus.

      Jun 16, 2009 at 9:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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