2012 Election | Gay Marriage | North Carolina

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Nate Silver's Doomy Amendment One Forecast

Silver081020_250Nate Silver, the baseball-statistician-wunderkind turned nation's-premier-psephologist, has crunched the numbers on North Carolina's Amendment One. Those numbers are ugly.

First, Silver surveys the recent polling data:

Most recent polls show that voters are likely to approve the ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions, although results differ substantially from survey to survey because of the wording of their questions. 

The most recent poll was conducted by Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank whose poll results have generally shown little partisan bias in the past. That survey polled Democratic and Republican primary voters separately, but projected that the measure would win by 16 percentage points when it combined the results.

An April poll by Public Policy Polling, which conducts polling for Democratic clients but whose surveys also have a track record of nonpartisanship, had the measure prevailing by 14 points.

Both the Civitas and Public Policy Polling surveys directly read the text of the amendment to the voters they were polling.

... but, Silver notes, polls in which the amendment is explained to voters don't show it doing nearly so well, as most North Carolinians are opposed to any amendment which bans civil unions along with marriage -- a aspect of the amendment which is obscured by its weasely wording. Unfortunately, voting is Tuesday. Not much time remains to explain to voters what they might be voting for.

Silver proceeds to use two of his famously accurate statistical models to project the results of Tuesday's vote:

One version of the model, which recognizes the increasing support for same-sex marriage over time but treats the increase as slow and linear, projects that the North Carolina amendment will pass by 19 points.

... another version of the model, which treats the support for same-sex marriage as increasing at a faster rate because of the particularly sharp increase in support for same-sex marriage in national polls in the past three years, sees the outcome as closer. That version of the model projects the amendment to pass by seven percentage points, which would make it a clear but not overwhelming favorite, since there is uncertainty inherent to statistical modelling given the idiosyncrasies of each state.

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  1. This is why the president should NOT embrace marriage equality before his second term. If he does, he very likely won't have a second term, and we'll have a president who's promised to pursue a Constitutional Amendment against equality and whose strings will be pulled by frothy-mouthed, anti-gay forces. I'd rather have a stealth advocate win a four-year term. I like our chances of (EVEN more) progress under that scenario far better than having him make a highly principled but ultimately self-defeating proclamation in favor of marriage equality this year.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | May 5, 2012 10:39:32 AM


  2. I wish there were a way to give IQ tests to voters, and disqualify them if they're that stupid.

    Though hopefully if they're that dumb, they won't be voting anyway. But it's North Carolina, and I suspect even the fancy intellectuals of that state are bigots.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 5, 2012 10:40:10 AM


  3. Well, Nate was 100% wrong in predicting the outcome of the marriage referendum in Maine, so I'm not sure where all of your gushing flattery is coming from. I think it will actually be pretty close. And with cowardly quislings like Matthew out there, it wouldnt surprise me if it took another 20 years to actually get anywhere with the Democratic Party, much less the rest of the nation .

    Posted by: gaylib | May 5, 2012 10:49:54 AM


  4. NC shouldn't feel bad, in Texas it was something like 75 percent in favor. I dare say that the Bill of Rights would probably go down in defeat as well if put to a popular vote - never a good idea for civil rights.

    Posted by: carl | May 5, 2012 10:54:09 AM


  5. As I said earlier....let Amendment One pass so these dear people and sow their own seeds.

    I was never allowed to travel south of Battery Park in NYC per my parents. How smart and aware they were.

    I did make it to DCA a few times though.

    Posted by: anthony | May 5, 2012 10:58:26 AM


  6. I read Nate's blog entries regularly. He's a wonderful analyst and writer. But on gay issues he has a tendency to be overly optimistic about how quickly change can happen. Several years ago he had a chart predicting the last year each state would have an anti-gay majority in voting. He got so much wrong with this chart that it isn't even accessible on his blog anymore.

    Posted by: mary | May 5, 2012 11:02:43 AM


  7. I also just noted that he got a lot wrong with his blazer.

    His look of "I've been smoking tons of pot" isn't helping, but that can't be without dramatic surgery.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 5, 2012 11:08:45 AM


  8. How can this surprise anyone? It's the goddamn South.

    Posted by: jomicur | May 5, 2012 11:27:25 AM


  9. Better challenge this in federal court.

    Posted by: Ezam | May 5, 2012 11:31:14 AM


  10. There was a time when I wanted to move to North Carolina. Its so beautiful there and has a great climate. I'm so grateful to US immigration for not allowing that to happen.

    Posted by: John Freeman | May 5, 2012 11:39:49 AM


  11. That this is going to pass is fairly obvious. Less so is the aftermath. Therw will be lawsuits and many people will suffer at great expense. Getting out of North Carolina altogether is an excellent idea, whetehr you're gay or straight.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | May 5, 2012 11:45:24 AM


  12. The worst thing about this amendment is the cruelty of codifying hate into their state constitution and denying families their rights and equality. The second worst thing will be the bigots gloating about it.

    Posted by: Terry | May 5, 2012 11:56:36 AM


  13. I'm not sure why this is a big story. A bigoted anti-gay amendment passing in the south is not exactly earth-shaking news. What's also not earth-shaking is the knowledge that civil and human rights for minorities almost never pass when placed onto a ballot for populat vote. That's why we have the courts... they're not activist judges, they are the third co-equal branch of our government and they are there for a reason.

    Posted by: The Milkman | May 5, 2012 11:58:24 AM


  14. Nate is fantastic, but he is optimistic on gay issues.

    The amendment one campaign was, again, confusing with focus on obtuse themes. Local gay rights groups do a really crappy job when it comes to pitching their causes to the public.

    Posted by: Tyler | May 5, 2012 11:58:44 AM


  15. GayLib actually Nate's pretty darn accurate on many fronts and many polling issues. His methodology is some of the best in the industry and takes into account many things others don't. Personally I think you're wishing for better outcomes in NC and brushing away the realities of the matter. NC is so different from ME it's bizarre you would even equate the two.

    The reality of the situation is that while our community is improving in framing the discussion, social issues like this take time. Today Chris Hayes on MSNBC discussed the polarization of politics and how it's more instilled in gut feel than rational discussion. Those gut feelings take time to overcome. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46979738/vp/47304976#47304976

    Posted by: RBearSAT | May 5, 2012 12:04:10 PM


  16. Think of all the jobs this will create! The republicans are always in the forefront on economy issues....
    Every Black, latino, female, and other minority should have this quote taped to their fridge,

    "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me." martin niemoller

    Posted by: stevenelliot | May 5, 2012 12:05:38 PM


  17. "I wish there were a way to give IQ tests to voters, and disqualify them if they're that stupid."

    I all seriousness, I wish that it was common practice to force representatives of both sides of an issue to agree on the wording of an amendment or initiative like this, so that things like "this bans civil unions, too" are actually clear on the ballot.

    All of these things have "unintended consequences" that the other side saw coming from a mile away.

    Posted by: Lymis | May 5, 2012 12:29:39 PM


  18. @Matthew..couldn't agree with you more. Obama doesn't need to come out for same-sex marriage at this point. He needs to get another term if only because the SCOTUS may very well hang in the balance.

    Posted by: Tom | May 5, 2012 12:30:54 PM


  19. and so many of you wonder why obama won't take a proactive stand on marriage equality.

    Welcome to America.

    Posted by: dms | May 5, 2012 1:10:46 PM


  20. The minute this amendment was placed on the primary ballot its chances of a "no" vote were doomed. There is no contest on the Democratic side, and even though the Republican contest is essentially over, that particular primary voter demographic is still hyped. They'll turn out in bigger numbers and will be more inclined to vote yes.

    And even if there was a big contest on the Democratic side, the amend,ent would still pass (although probably not by as a big a margin as is likely Tuesday), because we're talking about North Carolina!!

    Then again, probably a good thing this isn't on the November ballot. If the presidential election is close, Obama will need NC in his column. That is already a tall order without a marriage amendment on the ballot.

    Posted by: Wayne | May 5, 2012 1:17:30 PM


  21. If you graduate from college this year with an MBA and land a job paying 6 figures base (which I did), I am sure the hell moving to Charlotte, NC. It doesn't bother me in the least how they vote. I would rather have enconomic freedom. This issue has been voted down in California, Texas, and a lot more places. Guess Democrats wish they hadn't picked our state to have the convention, but the revenue generated will be nice for the city. Look, get a grip. What the hell does it matter. You get in a relationship, you get a good lawyer, and you have all you need. Marriage is far over rated. Some of you need to get a job and get a life instead of knocking NC. It's a wonderful state regardless of how the majority vote on gay related issues. That is such a small part of what my life is about. Have a great weekend!

    Posted by: grad2012 | May 5, 2012 1:27:03 PM


  22. Sadly, Obama playing hard-to-get with the whole coming out in complete support of marriage equality is very true. Obama needs to win the swing-states and virtually every single one of them is clearly anti-gay. That would include North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan. Also, in regards to North Carolina, obviously, message issues are apparent, since most people still do not know what Amendment One will actually do and the fact most couples, gay and straight, will be severely impacted.

    All studies have shown once people know what the law will actually do and how far-reaching it is, that most are against the Amendment. I don't want to throw shade at the activists in NC fighting to prevent this Amendment from passing but the reality is, mistakes have been made here and it looks like millions of North Carolinians will suffer as a result.

    Posted by: Francis | May 5, 2012 1:29:38 PM


  23. Once Prop 8 is overturned by the US Supreme Court, Amendment One will go down in flames.

    Posted by: Michael Vilain | May 5, 2012 1:34:42 PM


  24. @Grad2012: Your attitude basically boils down to "get lucky and wealthy and it doesn't matter." I'm sorry, but not everyone has the kind of opportunity that you have been afforded, and you would do well to realize that not everyone--including yourself--can afford the certainty and assurance of a six-figure income for life. Numerous income earners have lost jobs they thought were secure. Numerous people have fallen sick and have faced financial ruin in order to save their lives.

    So no, it is not just about money. Your attitude is typical of the ignorant, self-absorbed, materialistic, inconsiderate, unprincipled youth of your generation, obsessively and myopically focused on yourself and incapable of realizing that other people NEED legal recognition of their spouses and their CHILDREN.

    Posted by: atomic | May 5, 2012 1:43:54 PM


  25. @Grad2012: Wow, thanks for the brilliant insight. Write me when you get into this fictional relationship, achieve your fictional rights, and live surrounded by real people who seek to strip your rights and might try to injure you. Have fun!

    At your age, in NC, it should be a cakewalk as long as you remain closeted.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 5, 2012 1:47:07 PM


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