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The hotly contested presidential election is predicted to go to Obama by a wide margin in California today, but polls show voters still closely divided on another ballot issue.

Proposition 8 would amend the California constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, overthrowing a California Supreme Court decision earlier this year that allows homosexual marriage in the state.

Robert Cochran, director of the Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics at Pepperdine University, said he thinks the reason the state is set on the presidential election but divided on Proposition 8 is because of Obama's focus on specific issues.

"Senator Obama has been able to keep the election focused on economic issues, rather than social issues," said Cochran, who supports Proposition 8. "There are a significant number of voters (including a lot of Christian voters) who agree with Senator Obama on the war, health care, and taxation, but believe that the traditional family is an important social institution and should be preserved," he said in an e-mail message.

The proposition is unique in what it attempts to do and in the amount of attention it has received. Over $60 million was raised by supporters and opponents of the proposition; supporting donors included Focus on the Family and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Amy Black, professor of politics at Wheaton College, said the proposition is noteworthy because it attempts to change an existing definition of marriage instead of defining an unspoken norm that already exists. As for San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom's statement, "as California goes, so goes the nation," Black said that could be true.

"California is a bellwether state on the progressive ...

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November 2008

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