Nate Silver Weighs In On Maine Gay Marriage Ballot Question
As most of the nation discovered in 2008 Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight is one the brightest analytical minds when it comes to taking raw polling data and statistics, stirring them all together, and then making sense of it for the political junkies around the country. His latest write-up on the Maine ballot question for gay marriage is one that I suspect is on target, even though the end result is not as powerful as I had hoped.
While an electorate that favorable to liberals might be somewhat unlikely in an off-year election, there is also not a lot of evidence that conservatives have the edge in terms of organization or enthusiasm. On the contrary, the No-on-1 campaign has received contributions from 9 times as many Mainers as the Yes-on-1 side, and Yes-on-1′s messaging has been haphazard, to put it generously. With that said, the gay marriage question is one on which conservatives have typically had an enthusiasm advantage, although that may be changing, with conservatives devoting more of their energies to abortion and fiscal policy.
One last methodological issue worth mentioning may be cellphone-only households, which continue to make up a higher and higher percentage of the survey base and which none of these pollsters, to my knowledge, are including in their surveys. Some previous studies have found a particularly strong split on the gay marriage question based on cellphone usage, with the younger and perhaps more sociable cellphone-only crowd tending to be more supportive of gay marriage.
The Odds: A statistical analysis I conducted last month, which was based on the results from previous gay marriage referenda in other states, gave the Yes on 1 side just an 11 percent chance of prevailing, although the fraction rises to 32 percent after an ad-hoc adjustment for the fact that this is an off-year election. In spite of the PPP poll, I’m not especially persuaded to deviate substantially from those numbers: the polling average still favors the ‘No’ side, albeit narrowly; the ‘No’ side seems to have run the superior campaign, and the cellphone issue may be worth a point or two. The tight polling, certainly, should keep everybody on their toes, and gay marriage could quite easily be overturned. But I’d still put the Yes on 1 side as about a 5-to-2 underdog.