Survey Says

All The Things Homophobes Can Learn From California’s Secret Poll


Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but now others are joining Queerty in holding gay rights activists to the fire and insisting on transparency — something we thought many gay folks would have a stake in! Sure, we’re the media, so all we ever want is a story! And pageviews! And ad dollars! And in order to get that, we rely on some level of openness and democratic processes. Ahh, we’re the devil! But this whole issue of gay rights organizers hiding their top secret polling information from the enemy has the unwanted effect of withholding that same powerful data from other activists and allies.

As Queerty reported before, there was limited media access to Sunday’s meeting in Fresno, where organizers attempted to plan next steps, but then went offline when the data was shared. “Reporters were ordered to leave last Sunday’s equality leadership summit in Fresno during a discussion of recent polling data after meeting organizers, and groups that paid for the poll, expressed fears that the ‘sensitive’ information would provide ammunition to opponents of same-sex marriage,” reports the Bay Area Reporter.


Among those looking to protect the sensitive data: Courage Campaign head Rick Jacobs, who says making the poll data public “gives $86,000 worth of information to the opposition.” (It would also give $86,000 worth of information to the gays.) Jacobs, meanwhile, distancing himself from Sunday’s meeting, saying he didn’t organize it. (So … it was just Meet In The Middle founder Robin McGhee and Cleve Jones, then.)

But despite their best efforts to shield the data from the Poll 4 Equality effort, the results were already “leaked” to some media outlets. So what are some of the new secrets we’re hearing about? BAR:

• The poll also shows the marriage equality side doing better in 2012 than in 2010. On a series of similar questions, the poll results show more support for reinstating the right of same-sex couples to marry (46 percent yes, 49 percent no in 2012, compared to 45 percent to 51 percent in 2010), or a constitutional amendment to end California’s ban on same-sex marriage (47 percent yes, 47 percent no in 2012, compared to 47 percent yes, 48 percent no in 2010). [… Poll chief David Binder] gave a slight advantage to 2012, but noted that advantage wasn’t so great, about 1 or 2 percentage points. The reason, he said, is mostly because of the net effect of voters in a presidential election year.”

[Ed: This still doesn’t explain why a ballot initiative cannot be placed on both the 2010 and 2012 ballots, a question we keep getting from Queerty readers, but don’t yet have an answer for.]

• Another important finding from the poll is that when a religious exemption is included in the ballot language, support for same-sex marriage increases. Such language means that the initiative would not mandate or require clergy of any church or religious institution to perform a service or duty that goes against their faith. When that question was asked, the results were 52 percent in support for same-sex marriage, compared to 39 percent against, according to the poll. The religious exemption was a key part of then-Assemblyman Mark Leno’s (D-San Francisco) two successful legislative efforts to secure marriage equality. Both of his bills – in 2005 and 2007 – included the phrase “religious freedom” in the title of the bill.

[Ed: Great, so add a religious exemption. It’s no secret those clauses help set right-leaning minds at ease. Let the National Organization for Marriage twist that one.]

• The Binder-Simon poll includes a series of questions that seem to be based on what the Yes on 8 campaign used in its messaging during last year’s election. Those questions and respondents’ answers seem to demonstrate the toughness of any future ballot fight and signal that California may not be as gay friendly as many people believe, particularly when it comes to same-sex marriage. The questions cover the usual arguments used by same-sex marriage opponents, including the “need to protect traditional marriage as a union between a husband and a wife, in order to have the best moral environment for our families and children” (52 percent of respondents believe that statement is “very” or “somewhat” persuasive, compared to 46 percent who find it “not too” or “not at all” persuasive).

[Ed: Anti-gay marriage proponents already know this stuff. That’s why they latch on to the whole “family” and “children” tactic. And it’s why we need more public examples like The Leffews from the gay side.]

And in case there’s still confusion about media access — which was to have been orchestrated by Chaz Lowe — let’s have BAR‘s Cynthia Laird lay things out for you:

The equality leadership summit had conflicting access rules for the media. Initially, an agenda was sent out by Yes on Equality’s Chaz Lowe stating that the summit would be closed to the press. After questions about that policy from the B.A.R. and other reporters last Friday, Lowe revised the policy and said that LGBT press would be invited, but not mainstream reporters. That prompted a complaint from the Associated Press.

The policy was subsequently changed to state that the summit would be open to the press, but would be off the record.

At Sunday’s summit, facilitator Vincent Jones from Liberty Hill Foundation reiterated that condition, but was quickly shot down by bloggers and others who were in the room, as a decision had already been made to webcast the meeting.

“Today, we’re talking to ourselves,” Jones said at the beginning of the summit when he said it would be off the record before reversing himself and stating that paid media would be asked to leave during the discussion of the Binder-Simon poll. Bloggers were allowed to remain in the room but were asked to turn off their computers. Likewise, those tweeting from the summit were asked to turn off their cell phones.

The B.A.R. and a reporter from the Associated Press protested the decision that forced them to leave the room.

(Photo: Mike Tidmus)