Last night at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, David Fleischer, founder of the LGBT Mentoring Project, sought to debunk common wisdom in gay rights circles on why Proposition 8 passed in 2008, offering up results from his study, "The Prop. 8 Report."
"The bottom line is that what most people know about Prop. 8 is factually incorrect," Fleischer said.
About 50 people gathered in Hollywood at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Village at Ed Gould Plaza, eagerly waiting Fleischer's findings.
Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel and marriage project director at Lambda Legal, started off the evening by explaining last week's federal court ruling that overturned Prop. 8.
Fleischer based his results on data collected by daily tracking polls used by the "No on 8" campaign.
He cited the example of the African American community being blamed for the passage of Prop. 8 as misguided.
"We started out behind and ended up behind," Fleischer said, referring to support from African Americans. He noted that in the final six weeks of the campaign, movement among African Americans away from the "No on 8" side stayed relatively stable compared to other groups. The African American community was not swayed by the "Yes on 8" TV ads that influenced other groups into voting for the gay marriage ban.
The "No on 8" campaign lost the most ground among parents with children under 18 living at home. These parents made up 30 percent of the California electorate, according to Fleischer.
He noted that TV ads played a critical role in swaying parent voters, particularly mothers. During mid- to late-September, the "No on 8" campaign was slightly ahead based on polling data. That changed when the "Princess" ad from the Yes on 8 campaign aired on October 8 claiming that children would be taught about gay marriage in public schools.
Here's the "Princess" TV ad called "It's Already Happened":
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A significant number of parents started to shift support from the "No on 8" side to the marriage ban following the airing of the "Princess" ad. During the final six weeks of the campaign, 500,000 parents moved to support the "Yes on 8" campaign.
"If we hadn't lost these parents, the election would have had a different outcome," Fleischer said.
Fleischer's study also found that many people voted the opposite of their intention. For instance, some voted no on Prop. 8 thinking it was a vote to ban gay marriage, while some thought a yes vote would allow gays and lesbians to marry. The "No on 8" side benefited from the wrong-way voters by approximately 400,000 votes. If everyone voted the way they intended, Prop. 8 would have passed by one million votes. The results put an extra burden on the "No on 8" side to convert more people to vote no.
Fleischer did commend the "No on 8" campaign for what they did right. This included recruiting 51,000 volunteers, raising $43 million and the use of a TV Ad featuring Jack O'Connell, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, refuting the claim that gay marriage would be taught in public schools.