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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Religious Extremism in America

Michele has something to say about the kind of people who voted for Bush. In the comments to the post, MikeR (among others) is nervous about the looming influence of Bush's "core" supporters, the religious right. I pointed out that Michele and I (and many others like us) are now Bush's "core" supporters.

However, there's something that has to be mentioned to clarify the "fringe" nature of the religious element.

Below are the percentages of votes for the two main presidential candidates, alongside the percentage of the vote for the same-sex marriage ban in each state which passed in every single case by large margins, as you will see.

State% Bush% KerryWinner% for ban
Arkansas 5445Bush75
Georgia 59 41 Bush 76
Kentucky 60 40 Bush 75
Michigan 48 51 Kerry 59
Mississippi 60 40 Bush 86
Montana 69 39 Bush 66
North Dakota 63 36 Bush 73
Ohio 51 49 Bush 62
Oklahoma 66 34 Bush 76
Oregon 48 52 Kerry 57
Utah 71 27 Bush 66

(All marriage ban ballot measures taken from this CNN page. Presidential results taken from this CNN page, but you have to keep selecting states. Both results are from yesterday, November 3, 2004.)

So you see that in every state except Montana and Utah, Bush supporters were outweighed (in percentage) by ban supporters. Many Kerry supporters voted for the bans, sometimes by quite a lot. As a caveat, bear in mind that not everyone who voted in the presidential race voted on the bans (and, in principle, vice-versa). I was too lazy to check this for every state, but in Ohio, approximately 288,000 more people voted in the presidential race. Even assuming (for no good reason) they would all have voted against the ban that doesn't budge the numbers much.

Since I haven't been keeping up on this issue, I wasn't sure how many other states had passed similar bans. This page gives brief descriptions of the laws in all 50 states, and I was surprised to find that there are only a handful of states that have not banned them. Massachusetts explicitly permits them, New Jersey and Vermont allow same-sex domestic partnerships, and New Mexico, New York, and Rhode Island have no laws on the matter. New Mexico, in particular, seems to be trying to ignore the whole issue.

Most of these are legislative bans, which means the legislature giveth, and the legislature can taketh away, too. But there are some which are amendments to the state constitution, which (generally) require a plebiscite. Here are the results of the five states which (as far as I could tell) already had constitutional bans:

StateYear Passed% for ban
Alaska1998 66*
Louisiana 2004 78
Missouri 2004 71
Nebraska 2000 70
Nevada 200070

[*] Roughly. The linked article said the measure had passed by 2-1.

These margins are all huge. Despite the protestations of some, what you see here is not the influence of the religious right, but of the religious middle. If you define "religious right" by the gay marriage ban, then about 2/3 of the country is the "religious right". (Of course, in reality it's more -- how you say? -- nuanced.) Those of you who are against such bans (like me) can count yourselves on the fringe.

And, just in time, here's a column by Arnold Kling which I believe is refuted by the above information. He may well be right about about the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling spawning the 11 referenda on same-sex marriage bans, though.

UPDATE:When I wrote the above, I was a little worried that maybe the raw numbers did not support my conclusion. See, it might just have been possible that Kerry supporters made sure they voted against Bush, then left the voting booth with satisfaction, forgetting in their triumph to vote down the marriage amendment. But I was too lazy to run those numbers.

Fortunately, Jack at Captain Yips Secret Journal was more industrious. He has an Excel spreadsheet showing the number of votes for Bush and Kerry in each of the 11 states, plus the total for the two of them, and the number of votes for and against the marriage bans, plus the total for that issue. The numbers show that my conclusions about the people voting for the same sex marriage bans hold up: lots of them were Kerry supporters.

Using Jack's spreadsheet, I looked at the results assuming that the excess number of voters (presidential voters - ban voters) had indeed meant to vote against the ban. The results: the bans were still passed by large margins, except in Montana, where the ban was narrowly defeated. By the way, in Utah and Oregon, more people voted on the ban issue than voted for president. This is still true, it turns out, if you include all the minor-party candidates as well. Hmmm.