Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, July 12, 2004

Analysis of Bush and Gay Marriage

Hi Everyone,

My theme lately has been that the Republican party has abandoned its libertarian factions and message. Nothing shows this more clearly than the Bush administration's call for a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit homosexuals from marrying each other. Bush and his supporters are fond of claiming that they - more than their political opponents - represent true American values. But what do the poll numbers say? To find out, I checked out (see link to the right for the homepage). They have a number of polls on this issue.

The latest Annenberg (U Penn) poll on the issue shows the country more or less evenly split on the Constitutional amendment idea with 48% opposing and 43% supporting. A poll based on the combined results of one Republican and one Democratic polling organization show 51% supporting an amendment and 44% opposed. OK, so between 40% and 50% of the country agrees with Bush. Good news for Bush, right?

Perhaps not. Things get complicated when you start asking the really big question: "Who cares?" The short answer is "about a third of country." Here is the long answer:

A CBS poll of registered voters asked people if they would or would not vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on the Gay marriage issue. Overall 56% of registered voters said that they WOULD vote for candidate who disagreed with them on the issue compared to 35% who would not. Among Republicans, 46% would vote for someone who disagreed with them and 44% would not. Among Democrats, 57% would vote for someone who disagreed with them and 35% would not. Among the all important independent voters, 64% would vote for someone who disagreed with them and 27% would not. The same poll also asked whether registered voters thought Gay marriage should be an issue in the 2004 Presidential election. 70% said NO.

So why is Bush making an issue of this? Independents don't seem to be sensitive to the issue. Democratic candidates seem capable of getting away with not taking a clear position (57% of Democrats will vote for a candidate who disagrees with them). And an overwhelming majority of American voters just want the issue to go away. What does Bush gain from all this? I think its not about what he would gain but rather what he would lose. 44% of Republicans say they would not vote for a candidate that disagrees with them on the Gay marriage issue. The majority of Republicans support a total ban on gay marriage. I think its fair to assume that the 44% for whom this issue is so important are part of the evangelical conservative movement. So Bush has to take their position or risk the same fate of his father when evangelical conservatives stay home. Of course, I also believe Bush is sincere in his homophobia on this issue.

I also suspect that Bush is counting on the distraction effect. Every day the media cover the Gay marriage issue as the top story is a day when anemic job situations, high gas prices or casualties in Iraq don't get covered.


US West said...

I just finished reading an interesting bit on the Religious Right. The writer makes a point that fundamentalist involvement in politics is really a response to the weakening in its religious authority base. He points out that for the likes of Billy Grahm, Falwell, and Bakker (remember Heritage USA theme park?) to appeal to a mass audience, they had to quit the fire and brimston, old-town religion stuff. They had to make religion fun and easy, not hard and scary. So the only place left to them to get any real traction is on three major issues: abortion, homosexual issues, and evolution. And the bleed them for all they are worth.

This Constitutional amendement is, as you suggest, simple pandering to the right. I have a hard time believing that it will get anywhere knowing how easy it is to kill a Constitutional amendment. And I am sure the Bush political machine knows this as well. But you see, it is another example of "the squeaky wheel" syndrome in this country.

The size of your group matters not, it is how loud you scream and how badly you want something. And what is the best way to deal with that? If you fight back, you make something an issue that shouldn't be. If you ignore it, before long, they group has run off with the show an the silent majority is stuck with a lousy policy to deal with or an issue that is so politicized no one can touch it.

This is where we keep finding ourselves. We think if we ingore it long enough, it will go away. But it doesn't.

Bell Curve said...

RbR, you hit it right on the head in an earlier posting in which you said that this election would be about which side gets most of its supporters to the polls. This is why Bush is taking up this issue -- he thinks it's important to get the fervent religious right rallying for him; meanwhile, he doesn't feel he'll be turning anyone off by doing it. It's a pretty good move ... unless, of course, he has underestimated the number of gay Republicans. Could he possibly have alienated enough of them to cost him the election? I doubt it.

I have never heard a candidate sympathize with both sides on this issue. Just once, I would like to hear a candidate say "I am not personally opposed to gay marriage, but I understand those who fear the diluting of the sacred institution of marriage. This is why I favor civil unions that would give couples (gay or straight) all the governmental advantages of marriage without actually labeling it as such."

Raised By Republicans said...

Hi Bell Curve, the reason you won't see a candidate expressing respect for both sides is because one side won't tolerate anyone who respects the other even if they respect both. So why bother being even handed. Kerry has tried and only succeeded in getting called "wishy washy" by the Republicans. His new strategy seems to be to ignore the issue altogether (a much better strategy in my opinion).

As US West said, the evangelical conservative movement is all about fear of change and loss of local power in rural communities. These people have no interest in being part of a mutual respect club.

I recently heard a Republican Senator (I think it was Santorum) saying that allowing Gay marriage will destroy civilization itself. This is not the language of someone who feels left out. This is the language of someone who wants to exclude others. It the language of hate and fear.

While evangelical conservatives are disprortionately concentrated in Southern states that Bush will likely win anyway, energizing the religious base will help the Senate and House candidates in the South. That's why the Republicans in the Senate are holding a hopeless vote on this issue. They want to force Southern Democrats to go on record as not being bigotted hate mongers.

But will it play in Peoria (that is outside the South)? Will the 70% of voters who think this issue should NOT be part of the election, punish the Republicans for hyping it so much? We'll see. I note with interest that the Republicans in the Senate are accusing the Democrats of "ducking the issue." The polls say the American people want Congress to duck the issue. It seems the Democrats are counting on getting points for not getting wrapped up in this issue.

The Law Talking Guy said...

What I think is fascinating, and sort of wonderful, is that a majority of Americans oppose gay marriage, but a majority oppose amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. In other words, the sanctity of the Constitution is also at issue, not just the sanctity of marriage, and the Constitution is actually in more danger. It also suggests a basic flaw in the Republican strategy. Conservatives wish to preserve the status quo; amending the Constitution sure doesn't sound like a "conservative" move to preserve the status quo!

Anonymous said...

Putting aside whether we think there should be gay marriage or not (which nobody seemed to address), how can you assert that "an overwhelming majority of American voters just want the issue to go away."? Where do you get that in your polling data? Where does it say that people don't like this issue or are upset by it or want to see it disappear for the rest of time? By your logic, if an issue is not the most salient one (i.e., polling as the most important issue of the day), voters want it to go away. I hardly think that is the case. A majority of them simply don't see it as the most pressing issue today...which is a far cry from wanting it to go away, which implies some negative feeling.

Second, my big beef here is that you don't tell us whether people support gay marriage or not. For good reason, I suspect. That "bastion of liberalism" the NY Times most recent poll, I believe, showed that 70% or so thought there should not be gay marriage. Forget the amendment junk. When Bush says he is representing the American people and their values, answer that question: is he on this issue? Do the American people want gay marriage? If they don't want it in amendment form, ok, maybe that is going against their values, but the thought, outlawing it, is there.

Third, you only belatedly get around to the main point, which is also missed by the other commenters, that this is a costless policy for Bush. Your question should really be "Why didn't Bush do this before?" If Democrats apparently don't care what their politicians think, and independents don't care even more, but you have a group (evangelical Christians) who do care greatly about it, and you are Karl Rove arguing that 4 million of them didn't turn out to the polls in 2000...well, gee, how hard is it to see that if you make the effort, they might vote for you? And it won't cost you a thing. Were Democrats who think there should be gay marriage likely ever to vote for Bush? No. Indep.? No. Reps? Yes. And as for how many gay (Log Cabin) Republicans Bush will lose, see the article in the LA Times magazine a month or two ago by Andrew Sullivan (or simply read his blog). Many gay Republicans, apparently, are perfectly willing to ignore the civil liberty issues from the administration in return for his strong showing on defense, economic issues, etc. Maybe these are the people who want the issue to "go away?"

While we’re on the topic, I find it inconceivable that the link for Log Cabin Republicans ended up under “The Fascists.” Are they part of the Gay Mafia Eisner warned us about?

As for Kerry, please, he can barely open his mouth without sounding like he's TRYING to flip-flop on something. His campaign has yet to figure out how to address complex issues in sound bites. At least Edwards will somewhat answer a question. Yes, it's a terrible thing that the American population has the attention span and brain power of a garbanzo bean, but as Bell Curve nicely points out, it apparently is possible to come up with something that sounds "moderate" and reasonable to many people, I would suspect. If I were you, Mr. Curve, I would offer my services to the Dem Party! :)

Raised By Republicans said...

Dear Anonymous:

Where do I get the poll numbers of 70% wanting the issue to go away? I posted a link and reference in the original posting to the polling numbers, go back and check it out. A CBS poll showed that 70% of respondents thought Gay marriage should NOT be an issue in the 2004 campaign. That means that a lot of people who say they are opposed to Gay marriage are also opposed to having a big pupblic policy debate about it, at least for now.

RE: Why the Log Cabin Republicans are under "fascists". Bell Curve (not a political scientist) did the original categorization. He also listed the Democratic Leadership Council as "Pinkos" by mistake. I'll move it to "Sell Outs" which I think more accurately describes their position. Thanks for pointing that out.

Re: what you say is the main point. Why are you so upset that I "belatedly" got the point you wanted to hear? Why don't you post on a blog yourself and you can make the points in what ever order you want. By the way, do I detect in the tone of your comment that you are in fact "The Other Political Scientist" lurking about annonymously? If so you should post on THIS blog and you can make your points with your prefered order and emphasis.

RE: a moderate position. My reading of the polls is that the moderate position is "This shouldn't even be a matter of public debate right now." If you try to say something like what Bell Curve suggested - which is almost word for word what Kerry's position has been - you'll have a lot of Republicans (whose position on the issue is anything but moderate) accusing you of being wishy washy. Better to just say there are more important things to talk about and move on.

RE: Why not earlier? How much earlier could Bush have done this? Granted, he could have done this his first day in office but he didn't realize that Gay people have equal protection under the US Constitution and State Constitutions until a few months ago. He probably assumed that no judge or other public figure could ever consider a Gay person as being equal to any other citizen.

The Law Talking Guy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The thing I find fascinating about the whole debate is that there is very little discussion of the actual costs of gay marriage (i.e., health insurance, not double wedding dresses).

While I seem to remember reading a study indicating that the highest cost for any health insurance provider is prenatal care/live birth (not additional insureds), is there any info out there regarding how much employers, etc. will have to kick in if gay marriage becomes law?

-Seventh Sister

Raised By Republicans said...

RE: Cost of marriage via insurance. Well, since we're going to start debating the substance of the issue...

I have an Aunt (or Tante in ethnospeak, hereafter refered to as Tante I) who has a long time partner (also female) with whom she has had a covenant cermony (or something very similar). As far as I am conscerned they are married and I now have another Tante (hereafter refered to as Tante II). I can tell you that if I had a kid, and something happened to me I'd want these two Tante's (of all my large and close-knit extended family) to take care of him/her! Anyway, Tante II was recently diagnosed with a serious illness. Tante I's ability to care for her loved one has been significantly complicated by this issue of what marriage is or isn't. Needless hardship (in the form of extra forms to fill out, extra explanations to the hospitals and doctors, extra trips to lawyers, extra bills to lawyers, etc) was imposed on members of my family that I love because of this discriminatory attitude about marriage.

First, I can't imagine that there is a moral, legal or Constitutional justification for banning Gay marriage based in any way on avoiding increased insurance costs. In fact, I find such an argument to be reprehensible.

Second, does the fact I've used my two Tantes as an example on this web page suddenly threaten all heterosexual married couples who read the comment? I mean, they didn't even know my Tante's existed before reading this, now that they know about them will these heterosexuals sudden percieve an added threat to marriage, the family and civilization itself (as argued by Senator Santorum)!?

But all that said, I agree with the 70% who think this should not be an issue in the 2004 election campaign. I think this is a "red herring" (which by the way, taste tollerably good when pickled and eaten with akvavit and a good pilsner beer).

Bell Curve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bell Curve said...

I'm not so sure our opinion on gay marriage is that important, but mine is the one from my previous comment. I do, however, strongly oppose any kind of consitutional amendment having anything to do with gay marriage. In fact, I oppose just about any constitutional amendment, except for one that would banish the electoral college to the land of wind and ghosts*, but maybe that's for a separate posting.

*Simpsons reference. We're short on these. If only the other political scientist would post...

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