WILL CALIFORNIANS VOTE TO BAN GAY MARRIAGE?….It’s almost certain that an initiative to ban same-sex marriage will be on the California ballot this November. How likely is it to pass?

Here’s a very crude cut at an answer. Lots of polls have been done over the years about attitudes toward gays, and they all show a similar trend: people have become more gay friendly at the rate of about 1% per year. Here are some examples from Karlyn Bowman’s 2006 roundup of historical poll data:

  • Same-sex relations “not wrong”: increased from 11% to 31% between 1973 and 2004.

  • Gays should have equal employment rights: increased from 56% to 89% between 1977 and 2006.

  • Gay marriage should be valid: increased from 27% to 39% between 1996 and 2005.

  • Gays should have adoption rights: increased from 29% to 45% between 1994 and 2004.

All of these questions have had ups and downs over the years, but on all of them the population has gotten steadily more gay friendly. The exact rate of change per year on these four questions is: .66%, 1.14%, 1.2%, and 1.45%. The average of all four is 1.11% per year.

In 2000 Californians voted to ban same-sex marriage by a margin of 61%-39%. If attitudes toward gay marriage have followed their historical pattern, about 9% more Californians are in favor of it this year, which means they’d still vote to ban it, but by the smaller margin of 52%-48%.

In other words: this is likely to be very close. These numbers have fairly big error bars attached to them, and it’s also possible, especially in California, that attitudes toward gay marriage since 2000 have softened faster than in the past. Still, right now it looks to me like the odds are slightly stacked against those of us who favor same-sex marriage. This is going to be a very tough campaign.

UPDATE: I originally had the vote on Prop 22 pegged at 63%-37% in favor. I’m not sure where I got that, but the actual final tally was 61.4%-38.6%. So this is even a closer call than I thought.

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