Nate Silver just posted his analysis of the California exit polls and voting patterns on proposition 8. Like all reason-minded people, he cautioned against blaming any racial group for passage of the controversial amendment.
Certainly, the No on 8 folks might have done a better job of outreach to California’s black and Latino communities. But the notion that Prop 8 passed because of the Obama turnout surge is silly. Exit polls suggest that first-time voters — the vast majority of whom were driven to turn out by Obama (he won 83 percent [!] of their votes) — voted against Prop 8 by a 62-38 margin. More experienced voters voted for the measure 56-44, however, providing for its passage.
However, there is something notable about this post. It’s what he didn’t say.
He didn’t criticize the validity of the exit poll. He didn’t caution us against trusting the data. He cautioned against misreading the data. His take was that Latino’s and African-Americans were not to blame. If anything, it was older voters.
At the end of the day, Prop 8’s passage was more a generational matter than a racial one. If nobody over the age of 65 had voted, Prop 8 would have failed by a point or two. It appears that the generational splits may be larger within minority communities than among whites, although the data on this is sketchy.
When I first saw the exit polls, I was hurt and angry. As party activists started taking sides and screaming at each other, I was devastated. Looking back on all of the nasty rhetoric (coming from BOTH SIDES), I realize that these exit polls don’t point to a problem. They point to an opportunity.
If the African-American and Latino communities are going to become more politically active and if they are going to vote more with Democrats, then we (LGBT community) have a better chance at bringing these voters over to our side of the issue. As these two communities grow and represent a greater and greater proportion of American society, we have the opportunity to form a new coalition for equality for everyone.
For those who looked at the data and saw a scapegoat, and for those who looked at the data and saw a conspiracy, you were all wrong. The election is over. It’s time to put the pain behind us and move forward.