- "We trust that this decision will be respected by all Californians."
- "Now that the people of California have decided this issue, we hope there can be a healing among all and a continued respect for the diverse views that have been expressed during this campaign."
- "California's vote in favor of traditional marriage should give the silent majority comfort that they do have a voice and can and should stand up for this precious institution in legislatures throughout the world."
Snippets From: Statement on Proposition 8 Passing by Ron Prentice, Chairman of ProtectMarriage.com
The tone of this statement is evident from the above snippets. Ron Prentice is scared. Normally when a law is passed, one doesn't have to "trust" people will respect it. Normally when a proposition passes with over 50% of the vote, one doesn't at the same time implore the "silent majority" to be louder.
Why is he scared? In 2000 there was a similar initiative on the ballot, Proposition 22, which passed convincingly with 61.4% of the vote. Not even a decade later, the opponents of gay marriage spent 35 million dollars and could only muster 52.5% of the vote.
Many people outside of California mistakenly consider it to be the most liberal place in America, home of San Francisco elites and Hollywood liberals. But California was a solidly conservative state as recently as 20 years ago, voting Republican until Clinton won it in 1992. Looking at a breakdown of the Proposition 8 results you can see the even big cities like Los Angeles and San Diego voted "Yes" on Proposition 8; it wasn't just rural areas. While it is true cities like San Francisco and Oakland voted overwhelmingly against the ban, their populations combined cannot even match the population of San Diego (which itself is not even one third the size of Los Angeles), and their vote margins were canceled out by the equally conservative areas like like Fresno and Orange County.
However there is one demographic in California that voted solidly in opposition of Proposition 8, and the silver lining in this election: The youth vote. According to exit polls, voters aged 18-29 voted 61% in opposition of Proposition 8. On the other end of the spectrum, voters aged 65+ were the largest supporters of Proposition 8, voting 61% in favor of it.
Lets compare that to the exit polls from Proposition 22 in the year 2000:
Voter Age % of voters Support of Ban
2008 2000 Delta 2008 2000 Delta
18-29 20 5 +15 39 42 -3
30-44 28 61 -33 55 56 -1
45-64 36 16 +20 54 63 -9
65+ 15 18 -3 61 68 -7
In these numbers there are a lot of hopeful signs. The most important is that support for a gay marriage ban is down in all age groups! In fact the largest increase in voters sympathetic to gay marriage was voters above the age of 45. Another important trend is the large increase in the youth vote. Gay marriage is an issue people in the younger generation care about, and this election was a telling example of it. Given the 2000 numbers it probably was a little optimistic to think that California would have opposed this measure only eight years after supporting a similar one with over 60% of the vote. Institutional change like this is generational, and these exit polls certainly show this data. Voters under the age of 30 are strongly pro gay marriage, while those above the age of 30 are against it.
However it doesn't take a mathematician to see what is going to happen in the near future. Unless there is any reason to believe that young voters will stop supporting gay marriage as they age, the numbers paint a bleak picture for the "silent majority." Given that the polling from this years election shows that every age demographic is growing more tolerant of gay marriage, we can safely assume the trends will continue to trickle up the various age groups. This is the double edged sword of direct democracy: it works much faster than the old fashioned way. Just as quickly as the current majority can pass this proposition, the future majority can dissolve it away. Don't be fooled by the headlines proclaiming the end of the culture war. California lost this battle, but the numbers show victory is coming.