A new Field poll released today shows a bare majority opposing the ban:
In a finding that could foreshadow a difficult political battle for a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, a new Field Poll says more California voters oppose Proposition 8 than favor it.
The new poll, released today, is the first independent statewide measure of public opinion on the proposed constitutional ban since gay men and lesbians began marrying legally in California on June 16. It was also the first time Field Research has polled voters on the official ballot description of Proposition 8. A narrow majority of 51 percent of 672 likely voters said they would vote against a ban, while 42 percent said they would vote for it.
. . .
"Very few initiatives in the history of the Field Poll have started out behind and come from behind to be approved," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. "The fact that (Proposition 8) is behind does not bode well for its chances."
. . .
But supporters of the measure still take heart from the Proposition 22 fight, noting that Field Poll projected somewhat less support before the 2000 election than the measure actually received. A Los Angeles Times poll in May found the constitutional ban leading 54 percent to 35 percent among registered voters.
I think this is just the begininng of a hugely important political battle in California. I therefore discount the real importance of the topline numbers above. What I find interesting is this explanation of who opposes the ban:
People who personally know or work with a gay man or a lesbian were much more likely to oppose a ban than those who said they don't.
The new poll and earlier Field results also suggest that some Californians who are uncomfortable with the concept of same-sex marriage still may not support changing the state constitution, DiCamillo said.
That, to me, confirms my own experience: Attitudes about gay and lesbians change dramatically when people actually get to know real gays and lesbians. The Arizona Republic recently gave the example of hard-right Legislator Karen Johnson, whose attitudes changed after befriending two gay legislators:
The 67-year-old's smile faded and her voice cracked as she shook her head. "Why do you have to live to be in your early 60s . . . before you learn a lot of this stuff?" she asked. "I hope I can help my children, who are way younger, to be learning this now so they don't have to wait as long as their mom did to learn some of these things."
When Johnson's legislative career began, following her election in November 1996, she prepared a bill that would have made sodomy a felony and would have banned gay groups from high-school and university campuses. Johnson said, at the time, that she didn't want gays recruiting on campus.
As her legislative duties were coming to a close this June, she was torn over one of her final votes, saying she didn't think it was a good idea to ask voters to ban gay marriage.
Johnson's transformation came about partly because of a seating assignment in the state Senate. In 2005, when Johnson moved from the House to the Senate, she was seated to the left of Sen. Ken Cheuvront of Phoenix and in front of Sen. Paula Aboud of Tucson. Both are gay Democrats.
Some political observers expected fireworks when they found out Cheuvront and Johnson would be seated side by side. "I knew there wasn't going to be a problem sitting next to Ken," Johnson said. "I had no idea that we'd become as good of friends as we'd become. Ken is a very special and very dear person."
Cheuvront said the friendship began slowly, during dead times in the Senate. "And unlike in the House, where all the Democrats are on one side and the Republicans on the other, here they kind of mix you up," he said. "And because of that, you get to know people."
Johnson once thought gay people were doomed to hell. She no longer feels that way. "I'm sure there's a percentage of homosexual people who are going to do just fine because they're good, honest, decent, loving, kind people," she said.
Read it all here. You can read the actual poll here.