Thursday, September 18, 2008

Field Poll: Opposition grows to initiative that would ban gay marriage | Politics | | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California

This is the trend we want to see.

Field Poll: Opposition grows to initiative that would ban gay marriage | Politics | | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California

Sacramento Bureau

A ballot initiative that would end same-sex marriage in California continues to face significant opposition among likely voters, a new poll indicates.

A Field Poll survey released today found that 38 percent of likely voters support Prop. 8. In July, 42 percent of those surveyed backed the measure.

Fifty-five percent of likely voters oppose Prop. 8, an increase from 51 percent who opposed it in July. The percentage of undecided voters remains at 7 percent.

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The shifting numbers in today's poll seem to reflect, in part, the effects of changes made to the measure's ballot title and summary by Attorney General Jerry Brown earlier this summer.

Prop. 8's title initially was "Limit on Marriage." Its summary described the initiative as providing that only marriages between a man and a woman would be "valid or recognized in California."

Brown's office changed the title to "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." Officials said the wording better described what the initiative would do, although proponents alleged that the new description was biased and unsuccessfully tried to block it in court.

The wording change has increased opposition to the measure among voters who do not follow the issue closely, poll Director Mark DiCamillo said.

" 'Eliminates the right' -- those three words, no matter what you say after that, most people support preserving rights. Those words have a negative drag for those voters," he said.

Constitutional Change

If a majority of voters approve, Prop. 8 would define marriage as being between a man and a woman in the state constitution. The initiative would nullify a May ruling by the California Supreme Court that overturned a 2000 gay marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Thousands of gay couples have gotten married in the state since the court ruling.

The initiative, one of a dozen on the fall ballot, is emerging as the most contentious.

Lawn signs for and against Prop. 8 already dot the state, and both sides have raised millions of dollars, including a $100,000 contribution Wednesday by actor Brad Pitt to Prop. 8 opponents.

"We're encouraged by the (Field Poll) numbers but the campaign isn't over," said Dale Kelly Bankhead, the statewide campaign manager for Prop. 8 opponents. "There's a solid group of people on either side of the issue. We're approaching this as if it's a dead heat."

It's been less than a decade since 61 percent of voters backed Prop. 22, another gay-marriage ban. Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for Prop. 8 supporters, said the campaign this year will be much closer.

"Certainly, the attitudes of Californians on same-sex marriage have softened a bit. An element of political correctness has crept in," she said.

Support for the initiative continues to be strongest among Republicans, voters living in inland areas, and evangelical Christians. Opposition is greatest among Democrats, coastal residents, and people who are non-Christian or have no religious preference.

Inland Residents' Views

"They should be able to marry who they want to," said Beverly Erck, 72, of Redlands, a poll respondent. "I don't think that being gay or homosexual is a voluntary thing. No one would put themselves through that by choice."

Another respondent, David Jelaca, of La Quinta, said he supports domestic partner rights for gays, but not the right to marry. He is not surprised that large numbers of people support letting gays marry.

"A lot of things that used to be mainstream are no longer mainstream. A lot of those things that used to be out of left field are no longer so out there," Jelaca, 34, said.

Some respondents said they have yet to decide how to vote.

"I believe there should be something for partners who are of same-sex choice," said Cindy Grath-Smock, of Winchester. "But I don't like the use of the word 'marriage.' "

Today's poll was produced for The Press-Enterprise and other California media subscribers. The poll reflects the answers of a random sample of 830 likely voters from Sept. 5 through Sunday. The findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Reach Jim Miller at 916-445-9973 or

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