Maryland could be the latest state to reject same-sex marriage via a referendum. Last week, a group called The Maryland Marriage Alliance delivered to the Board of Elections over 113,000 voter signatures, well in excess of the amount of signatures it needed to collect to have a referendum placed on the Maryland ballot this November. Last February, the State Assembly permitted same-sex marriage, but this November residents will get to undo that effort.
If successful, Maryland will become the 33rd state to have its residents vote down gay marriage. It’s a peculiar phenomenon because numerous polls suggest that there is growing tolerance or acceptance for same-sex marriage. Even recent rulings in the courts suggest a radical social transformation taking place. Other very liberal states like Maine, Washington and Minnesota have also had success putting the issue on their ballots for this November. Just last month, voters in traditionally conservative state North Carolina defined marriage as between a man and a woman – but so did voters in a very so-called liberal state known as California in November 2008.
Could we be witnessing a sort of Bradley Effect on the marriage equality question, a theory explaining discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes? The Bradley Effect refers to the 1980 California governor’s race in which the first Black Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley showed election day dominance in the polling surveys, but lost at the voting polls. Experts suggest that mostly White polling respondents at the time were afraid to admit that they weren’t voting for the Black candidate out of fear of looking racist.
But, it’s hard to reconcile the difference between what’s being said in surveys and what people are voting in the polls? What else explains the difference?
Perhaps those polled do not want to appear as intolerant or thought of as a bigot and thus give an answer that is opposite to their true feelings. Then again, the answer could be found in where they are polling. Cornering a person on the street at the grocery store or in a metropolitan and urban city would reveal a different result than asking people coming out of church or that live along the Bible belt.
Then we can look to voter turnout. Those who are more adamant and passionate about an issue are also more likely to get to the polls and vote their issues and concerns. These types of citizens most likely have more enthusiasm than those who say “yay” when polled on gay marriage, who are just not that into the issue to get off their couch and go vote on it, especially if it is on a ballot in local or state elections which traditionally have lower vote turn out.
Again, the gay marriage on state referendum trend could all boil down to the enthusiasm gap.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, the Marriage Alliance took less than 3 months to assemble double the amount of signatures need an entire month ahead of the deadline. That may give it away as to how this will all end up come November. Time will tell.