Skewed polls and secret money
A few days after election night, when the leader of one of the local anti-gay groups conceded that voters had approved marriage equality, he groused about how the pro-gay groups had outspent them three-to-one. Just a week earlier he had been insisting that the polls which were all predicting passage of the referendum were skewed. “People are reluctant to say what they really feel to a pollster, because the pro-sodomy side has tricked the media into calling support of traditional marriage as bigotry. But when those voters are in the privacy of the voting booth, they will vote their true feelings.”
They did vote their true feelings. Fortunately for those of us who believe in equality, they had also been telling their true feelings to the pollsters. Surprise, surprise!
Sadly, I believe it was a complete surprise to the opposers. It shouldn’t have been. They had other evidence, and it was right there in that hypocritical comment he made about spending. It was hypocritical because it had only been four years before, during the Proposition 8 campaign in California that the anti-gay side had been doing the outspending. And for years before that, each ballot measure that came up in any state related to marriage equality or civil unions, it was the anti-gay side that always seemed to have the money advantage.
This time around, in Washington, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota, the forces of hate came up short both in the ballot box and fundraising. And it wasn’t simply a matter that suddenly our side was better at raising money. No, the big story is that they have, in just the last few years, experienced a serious drop in donations.
It isn’t just the amount of money. What’s more significant is the number of donors. The national organizations have been very secretive about their funding. They have refused, again and again, to reveal their donor lists, even when they appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost, they have tried to keep that secret. Eventually, some details are beginning to emerge:
Each year, according to [the National Organization for Marriage]’s tax filings, two or three donors give NOM between $1 million and $3.5 million apiece; another two or three give between $100,000 and $750,000; and 10 or so others give between $5,000 and $95,000. In 2009 the top five donors made up three fourths of NOM’s budget; in 2010 the top two donors gave two thirds of the year’s total donations; and in 2011 the top two donors gave three fourths of NOM’s total income. But those funders’ identities are a mystery. Their names are redacted on NOM’s federal tax returns.
My emphasis added. Whoever those mysterious top two donors are, their donations have became a larger and larger proportion of the pot, as the thousands who gave less than $5000 dollars a year have dwindled to hundreds.
Statistics tell us the the most vehement opposition comes from the oldest voters, so a percentage of that drop off represents to reality of demographics. As elderly opposers die off, without a compensating proportion of supporters coming up in younger generations, some of that is just inevitable. But the drop off in support to the anti-gay cause in the last three or four years is far in excess of what could be accounted for by mere demographics.
People are changing their minds.
There will always be a hardcore group opposed to equal rights for gay, lesbian, bi, and trans people. Just a couple weeks ago at the big conservative conference a guy stood up and argued in favor of slavery because he believed it was a self-evident truth that whites were superior to blacks. He wasn’t an invited speaker, and to their credit, panelists and audience members challenged him on it, but during the ensuing back and forth he also made a comment to the effect the women shouldn’t have the right to speak up in public, either. So, just like that unrepentant racist and misogynist, there will always be homophobes among us.
But as more of the moderates and non-hateful conservatives come around, that view will be limited to the lunatic fringe where it belongs.
In the months since the vote in Washington, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota went our way, the opposers’ spokespeople have gone from saying that they were outspent 3-to-1 (which turned out to be a small exaggeration in our state) to claiming they were outspent 4-to-1, then 5-to-1… the last quote I read was “more than 7-to-1.” I believe their exaggerations get worse due to desperation. They hope that skewing their claim of victimhood will prompt more people to donate more money, which they think can turn the tide.
What they don’t understand is that the only skewed “polls” were their own. They fell into the common trap of thinking that because most of the people they know and like agree with them, that it absolutely must be the case the most people, period, do so. They think that since they still manage to raise a lot of money that there is still a lot of support, ignoring the fact that it’s a smaller and smaller number of people sending in the money. Because they are convinced of the truth of their cause, they believe that the only reasons polls and voting can be going against them is some kind of chicanery. They think that calling us pedophiles, comparing our relationships to bestiality or incest is “civil discourse,” but if we call them bigots we’re being bullies.
Most of all, many of them believe all the lies and distortions that they tell about us. Lies that other people can no longer believe once they get to know us: