The Prop 8 Gap

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A newly released report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, based on post-election polling, has reanimated the debate over whether or not African Americans were responsible for the passage of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative reestablishing California’s ban on gay marriage. The principal news is that 58 percent of African-American voters, not 70 percent as the exit polling reported, supported the initiative. Inasmuch as Latinos supported it at 59 percent, and twice the number of Latinos voted as African Americans, it seems that if anyone was responsible, it’s them.
Of course, in a narrow election, more than one group can be deemed responsible–the narrower the election, the more groups. (If Norm Coleman had just done a better job of appealing to Minnesota’s left-handed paperhangers, he might have won his senate race.) Pace Ta-Nehisi Coates, what drove the African-American angle of the story was not just the 70 percent number, but the apparent irony of one minority group turning out in force to support one of its own and in the process sticking the shiv in another minority group. Journalists cannot resist such ironies. (For a skeptical view of the new survey plus links, see here.)
Be all this as it may, the report provides some interesting analysis of the role of religion in the vote. If multivariate factor analysis is your bag, your take-away is that religiosity, measured by reported worship attendance, had less of an impact on the vote than party identification or ideology (liberal, moderate, conservative), but more than twice the impact of race or ethnicity. Me, I prefer simple cross-tabulations, and here’s what these show.
While 70 percent of weekly attenders voted for Prop 8, only 37 percent of those who attend less than weekly did, for a God gap of 33 points. That’s not much of a surprise. What’s more striking are the differences in the gap from group to group. For Asian-Americans, it was 35 points (68-33); for whites, 34 (70-36); for Latinos, 28 (74-46); and African Americans 18 (66-48). In a word, the God gap for whites and Asians on Prop 8 was nearly twice as big as it was for African-Americans, with Latinos falling somewhere in the middle. Among frequent attenders, African Americans were the least likely to support Prop 8; among less frequent attenders, the most likely.
The point here is that religion divides African-Americans less than it does other racial/ethnic groups. In California, the culture war is above all a white and Asian thing, and that presumably goes for the rest of the country as well.