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New study shows Prop 8 campaigns ineffective

June 15, 2010 6:23:14 PM PDT
Closing arguments take place Wednesday in the trial on Prop 8 -- the voter approved ban on same-sex marriage in California.

A new study looks at the effectiveness of ballot campaigns for and against same-sex marriage and the results could be a game changer.

New York University researcher Patrick Egan, Ph.D., considers his findings groundbreaking. He reviewed a decade of voter surveys in 32 states with same sex-marriage measures on the ballot.

"What this research does is say, 'Here's the conventional wisdom about these things and the conventional wisdom is wrong,'" says Egan.

The most startling conclusion is campaigns like those for and against Prop 8 really don't change voter opinions.

"We find no consistent change toward support for marriage equality or opposition, over the course of the typical campaign," says Egan.

His research is likely to shift the battle to change hearts and minds away from the heat of a campaign.

"It is absolutely clear that conversation with voters... those conversations need to happen now about who we are, our lives, our families," says Kate Kendell from the National Center For Lesbian Rights.

But opponent Bill May, from Catholics For the Common Good, doesn't think a change in tactic will work.

"No matter what they do, it's not going to change. The reality of marriage is imprinted in the very nature of people. We understand it because of our desire for connection with the mother and father that we came from," says May.

Opposition like that to same-sex marriage is consistently under-estimated in voter surveys, according to Egan's findings. He also examined the most common theories for the discrepancy like voters' reluctance to express anti-gay sentiment to survey researchers or confusion about the meaning of a "yes" and "no" vote.

"Two different theories have been advanced and I looked at both of the theories in this report and find very little evidence for either of them," says Egan.

Gay rights activists in California are now looking at 2012 for a possible run at repealing Prop 8. They and those who want to keep it in place, now have new data to review.

In the Prop 8 case, the plaintiffs' legal team submitted written answers on Tuesday to 39 questions posed by the court.

Those can be found here: Prop 8 Plaintiffs' submitted answers to court questions
Prop 8 court questions


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