Education, not race, best predicted support for gay marriage
Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 2:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 2:24 p.m.
The education level of Florida voters, not race, best predicted support for the state's gay marriage ban, according to a new University of Florida study rebutting conventional wisdom.
The study found education was about five times as important as race in determining whether a county's residents favored the ban. The results contradict claims that newly registered black voters who cast ballots for Barack Obama were a socially conservative group that can be credited with passing the ban.
"They are movable in terms of this issue," said Dan Smith, a political science professor and study co-author.
Nearly 62 percent of Florida voters cast ballots in favor of Amendment 2, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and woman. At the same time, about 51 percent of the state's voters supported Obama in the presidential election.
Controlling for political and socioeconomic factors, the study found each additional 1 percent of a county's population with bachelor's degrees correlated with a 1 percent decrease in support for the amendment. In comparison, each 1 percent increase in a county's black population led to two-tenths of a percentage increase in support.
"There's a lot of evidence showing increased education leads to greater tolerance," Smith said.
Smith is scheduled to present the findings Thursday to the American Political Science Association meeting in Toronto. He co-authored the study with Stephanie Slade, who conducted the research as an undergraduate at UF and now is a political science graduate student at American University.
After the 2008 election, exit polls done for CNN lent credence to the belief that newly registered Obama voters helped pass Amendment 2. The polls found 71 percent of black voters supported the ban, compared with 60 percent of white voters. The disparity was even more pronounced between young black and white voters.
Smith questioned those results, saying the polls had a margin of error over 10 percent.
"They're not sampling enough," he said.
The results follow a study of California's gay marriage vote done for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. Researchers found exit polls there also overrepresented black support for that state's gay marriage ban.
Smith said black voters have differing education levels and religious observance that can determine their support of gay marriage. The study shows supporters should include black voters in their outreach efforts, he said.
"I think the study shows they shouldn't be written off," he said.
Nathan Crabbe can be reached at 338-3176 or email@example.com.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article