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.


  1. says

    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.

  2. Paul R says

    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.

  3. gaylib says

    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 .

  4. carl says

    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.

  5. anthony says

    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.

  6. mary says

    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.

  7. Paul R says

    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.

  8. John Freeman says

    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.

  9. says

    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.

  10. Terry says

    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.

  11. The Milkman says

    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.

  12. Tyler says

    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.

  13. RBearSAT says

    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.

  14. stevenelliot says

    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

  15. Lymis says

    “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.

  16. Tom says

    @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.

  17. dms says

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

    Welcome to America.

  18. Wayne says

    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.

  19. grad2012 says

    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!

  20. Francis says

    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.

  21. atomic says

    @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.

  22. Paul R says

    @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.

  23. Francis says

    Grad2012 sounds like basically I’d venture about 40% of gay men who live in the South (sadly, and I live in the South, so, yeah, talking from experience). Who are so repressed, have been knocked down so much, and are so used to basically being treated as outsiders who are expected to effectively live closeted lives, that they actually resent the out and open gay community who fights for our/their right to live fully without discrimination, socially and legally. Notice how he says “being gay is such a small part of my life”.

    He’s also delusional in thinking a college degree and being advantageous in finding a high-paying job is something all youth will be lucky enough to gain. Newsflash: College students are getting degrees and are still not getting jobs because the job market sucks. If you read/watch the news at all, Grad2012, you would know this.

  24. says

    I don’t like the NC bashing that I’ve read in this thread.

    I’ve lived in NC for all of my life (I’m 28), and I love this state. I love the people. I really do love NC. It is a beautiful state with a rich history. It was always a source of pride being from NC, and up to recently, not having a constitutional amendment codifying marriage. It’s easy to forget that NC comprises more than Raleigh, Durham, Chapel HIll, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston Salem, Asheville, Charlotte, and Boone. It’s the places in between where this battle is being fought.

    Of all of the people that are voting for this amendment, nearly all are doing it on religious reasons. About 2% of them (generous) could be persuaded to vote against, so I think we’re really trying to push a big rock through a small hole. This is a matter that has been on state republican’s wishlists for years, only to be stymied by the consistently democratically controlled legislature. Obviously, this has changed (for the first time in 100+ years).

    Yes, it will probably pass on Tuesday. That sucks.This amendment is totally political in nature, and effectively constitutes the older generation sticking it to the younger generation while they still can. Yes, we are waiting for most of you to simply leave office and go away so we can get on with being progressive. Ultimately though, this will be decided in courts much larger than NC’s election on Tuesday. We wait for federal decisions from MA and CA, and that will the guiding arc for time to come. Everyone who votes for this will find themselves on the wrong side of history sooner rather than later, I hope.

    While I lament what will most likely happen on Tuesday, I still maintain a modicum of optimism over our future, and I am still proud to be from North Carolina.

  25. jim says

    @Grad2012: I just can’t WAIT until you’ve been out in the real world for a couple of years!

    @Atomic: Beautifully put, sir!

  26. russ says

    Sadly, I went to college in NC. I’ve never been back and I never will go back.

  27. bobbyjoe says

    Hey, I have an idea. Next time we face something like this, let’s keep using the same strategy of putting up touchy-feely ads with a subtext of “hey everybody, please be nice, okay?” That’s worked wonders so many times in the past. NC voters obviously know what this amendment is about and what it actually does. Great job, guys! I can see why our leaders keep going back to that well again and again; it has such an amazing success rate.

    I mean, in NC, we could have adopted a strategy of constant ominous ads that said things like “don’t let them fool you” and “Amendment One also affects straight people” and “They’re coming for YOUR rights, too.” And we could have stayed on that message until every man, woman, and child in NC thought that Amendment One might well put them on the slippery slope to seeing their own rights stripped away forever.

    But, hey, that would be presuming that people vote on, like, their own self-interest or something, and usually don’t give half a sh*t about things that might hurt somebody else. And we all know that’s not true, right? It just makes a lot more sense politically, doesn’t it, to keep putting up ads that are all like “hey, gosh, you guys, be nice to the sweet lesbian couple, okay?”

    Yes, that strategy has served us all so very well.

  28. Ozymandias71 says

    BobbyJoe, the ‘No on One’ campaign *has* been focusing on what is likely to happen to straight, unmarried couples in NC – and what’s the response? Pastors are glibly saying ‘Oh no, that won’t happen’ and they just keep repeating it – so the sheeple just nod their heads and say ‘Oh no, that won’t happen’ – there are a lot of people in NC that are in complete denial.

  29. NY2.0 says

    No wonder the closest I have ever gotten to NC was at an altitude of 30,000 feet. Referendums are just mob rule measures anyway. The minority always loses. If you put up the right to have interracial marriages for a vote in the south there is no guarantee it will survive.

    @Grad2012, I got my MBA in 2011 and there were also a lot of shockingly myopic and naive students in my class. Judging from your comments apparently it’s getting worst with each passing year.

  30. candide001 says

    If it’s not there already, be sure to put NC on your list of fly over states.

  31. You've got two choices... says

    You’ve got two choices… be ruled by your fears for another 20 years (remember, Bill Clinton “had to betray us” 20 years ago and “we couldn’t confront him” because “it would help the Republicans”), or we can tell President Obama a simple message — no equal rights, no second term.

  32. proprop8 says

    It is historically inevitable that we shall all have free beer tomorrow.

    Drink up, folks.

    NC will be a huge blowout win for marriage.

    Might as well save your angst for the court fight.

    At least you can construct a reasonably plausible basis for imagining a win there.

    The American people completely and utterly reject the marrriage corruption lunacy.

    Every election makes this point much more clearly.

    The SCOTUS is watching carefully.

  33. jack says

    @Proprop8: He who laughs last laughs best. It is not a question of whether Gay people will gain full equality, but when. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. All over the Western World the idea of full equality for LGBT people is steadly gaining more and more support.

  34. jack says

    Also: If we can get Obama another term and hold the Senate we may just get a much more sympathetic SCOTUS.

  35. Jay says

    I hate to say, I told you so, but I have been saying for a while now that the ads put out by ProtectALLNCFamilies have been a grave mistake. They have hidden gay people and talked only about the “collateral” damage that Amendment One will do. Such a strategy assumes that the Baptist bigots in North Carolina care about straight people “living in sin” and will rush to their aid. That is nonsense. The strategy has also allowed the anti-gay side to define homosexuality, and they have done so relentlessly with horrible stupid ads and statements, all with no rebuttal from us.

    The strategy assumed that the bigots in North Carolina would play fair and nice, being afraid to alienate “moderates.” Unfortunately, North Carolina is not California or Maine, where the bigots there had at least to pretend that they didn’t hate gay people just wanted to “protect marriage.” In North Carolina, they are quite happy to tell people we get our jollies from sticking telephones up our asses and need the gay beaten out of us.

    A better strategy would have been to confront the bigots headon and make clear that Amendment One is just a nasty attack on gay people. We might have lost, but at least we could have educated some people.

    As it is, we will have spent millions of dollars attempting to “protect” straight unmarried people.

  36. Jay says

    Bobby Joe, above, you are simply mistaken. The strategy taken by “our side” was exactly what you are recommending: Amendment One will hurt straight people! That was the mistake. Voters either don’t believe it or don’t care about the kind of straight people that will be hurt by Amendment One. They are voting for Jesus.

  37. proprop8 says


    Full equality?


    Marriage corruption?


    You see, the reason you can’t win an election is that your attempt to identify the two things as one is simply not at all persuasive to your neighbors.

    In fact it is so ridiculous you couldn’t even sell it in California.

    It is amazing to me that you guys don’t get that.

    You will.

  38. NullNaught says

    I wouldn’t be so sure of yourself. The story on Prop. 8 is not yet over. I think you will be the loser in the end on that one. :)
    Amendment 1 probably will pass, but it will not stand for long. Two steps forward, one step back. 20 years ago the idea of marriage equality was not even realistic. How many states have gay marriage now? You are on the wong end of history and are going to get the sh*t end of this stick, ultimately. Savour your Amendment 1 and prop. 8 victories while you can. Now you see it, now you don’t! :)

  39. mary says

    Proprop8, I understand your viewpoint. I am not a gay marriage supporter either. But when you visit a website that is meant for a group you don’t belong to, you should try to be polite to people and make the case for your views respectfully. Although I don’t know your motives in being on Towleroad, it seems to me as if you are just trying to provoke people,and there really is no point to that. But let me warn you of something: if you stay on Towleroad you may find your own position on gay rights becoming more liberal over time. Entering “enemy territory” can be risky: in more ways than one. Just letting you know.

  40. Peter M. says

    I think that the strategy by ProtectALLNCFamilies to left out (in their ads) the fact that this Amendment also adds a ban of civil unions & domestic partnerships to the state’s Constitution (and not only gay marriage)was a major mistake.
    Every poll has indicated that a majority of voters would oppose this Amendment if they “knew” that it also bans civil unions, so why for heaven’s sake didn’t they mention it in their ads?!!
    I will never understand that, it’s simply illogical.

  41. jack says

    Prop8: Full equality means just that FULL EQUALITY. If you want to avoid living in societies that embrace full equality, in the not too distant future, you will have to move to some Muslim country. Enjoy your freedom there.

  42. proprop8 says

    I certainly do not see any indication that respectful debate is a keynote of the discussion on this question here, Mary- certain exceptions noted.

    I certainly appreciate a sharp give and take on the question.

    It is a flat out culture war, and we have two irreconcilable world views at loggerheads with one another.

    I know we will never surrender marriage.

    It is still possible that cooler beds on the other side might go for civil unions.

    Not likely.

    But still possible.


  43. Chuck says

    The anti gay marriage amendment in NC shoudl pass!!!! Homosexuality is an abomination according to the Bible. That doesn’t make me a BIGOT, it makes me a CHRISTIAN who believes the WORD OF GOD!!!