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How Obama Helped Calif.'s Prop. 8 (Updated)

The folks at National Review aren't sure there was a big jump in turnout, though the Associated Press is quite emphatic that voters went to the polls in epic numbers.

In any case, exit poll data says black turnout in California was way up: From 6 percent of the electorate in 2004 to 10 percent this year. One imagines that this is in large part due to enthusiasm for Obama.

Obama opposed California's Proposition 8 – though not very strongly. (An enduring question is why he opposed it: Obama said he opposes same-sex marriage but supports civil unions. Proposition 8 deals only with marriage and would allow for civil unions.)

But African-American Californians overwhelmingly supported Prop. 8, by a 7-to-3 margin. Black women (who made up 6% of the electorate) were even more supportive, telling exit pollsters they voted for the measure by a 3-to-1 margin.

Update: I've been playing with math and could use some help from some more math-friendly readers out there. Is is true that if black turnout had been 6 percent rather than 10 percent that the measure would have failed? I did one set of calculations that had Prop. 8 losing by 7,000 votes or so without the bump in African-American turnout, but another set of calculations had the measure still winning by 268,000.

Well, the exit polls aren't really exact enough to do this kind of math anyway.

Meanwhile, The Advocate, a gay magazine, offers another reason why Obama's election may have been bad news for Prop. 8: "No on 8 volunteers fear that with the election all but won for Barack Obama, California Democrats who would have otherwise waited in line after polls closed might be inclined to call it a night – bad news for Prop. 8."

Update from a reader:

If ALL of the pro-Prop 8 African-Americans stayed home, then it would not have passed.  It would have received 48% of the vote.  But if turnout dropped from 10 to 6 percent for this group, the pro and anti group would have lost voters (assuming that preferences for prop 8 were uncorrelated with turnout, i.e., those who turned out for Obama were not more or less inclined to vote for prop 8).


Yes Votes % Yes
Actual Results 5,163,908 52.0%
With No pro-8 AA voters 4,469,211 48.4%
If No AA's voted 4,469,211 51.0%
If 6% of AA's voted 4,844,347 51.6%


Related Topics:Politics
Posted:November 5, 2008 at 11:20AM
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How Obama Helped Calif.'s Prop. 8 (Updated)