D.C. Gay Marriage Polling: Some Thoughts
In his column this week, LL makes a case for why supporters of gay marriage in the District should embrace the idea of a ballot initiative. Right now, the orthodoxy among marriage equality advocates is that such matters of civil rights should never be put up for a vote. That's a principle that's hard to dispute. LL, however, sees an exception where civil rights would win big, and where pounding the opposition into dust would not only feel really good but also advance other political objectives.
Still, you may ask: Why is LL so convinced that gay marriage would win big?
There's polls, you see: A July poll of registered Democrats in three wards conducted by leading business types showed 77 percent support for gay marriage. Then there's another, lesser known poll that's been whispered about for months among local same-sex-marriage advocates—a poll that the Human Rights Campaign, national advocacy group, had conducted in the spring showing upwards of 65 percent support citywide, LL is told by multiple sources. That's landslide territory.
But a couple of things worth mentioning on that polling. First off, the July poll was done in wards 1, 3, and 6—areas considered especially white and especially liberal. And, under a racial breakdown, the difference are stark: 92 percent of whites said they'd favor a council marriage bill, while only 41 percent of blacks said so. The age divide is stark as well: For those over 65 support drops to 64 percent from over 80 percent for all other age groups.
In other words: Surprise—the race and generational divides are real.
Then there's the HRC poll, which is shrouded in secrecy. LL has not seen an actual polling report or gotten any details on question format of sampling methodology. On Tuesday, LL called up the HRC and asked for details on the poll. This is what he got, a statement from spokesman Brad Luna: "From time to time, on a variety of issues of importance to our community across the country, we will go into the field with a public opinion poll. These polls are primarily done for internal guidance and the results of them are not released."
Obviously, the HRC has an interest in keeping the results close to the vest. Start publicizing that there's a huge majority in favor of your position, and you get local political columnists making harebrained arguments that you should betray your principles and just have a vote already.
The commenters over on the column have already started to explain why LL's got it all wrong. Feel free to chip in here as well.