I saw this interesting post from Ta-Nehisi Coates on California’s Prop 8 (the amendment reversing the CA Supreme Court allowing gay marriage). I was going to leave this response to the post and comments, but he closed the comments because they were getting ugly.
I found Prop 8 very annoying. Its existence was in response to what I thought was a poor strategic decision on the part of gay rights advocates—to take the faster court route rather than plodding through the legislature for a few more years. I thought that going through the courts was likely to produce a backlash that would make gay marriage ultimately take longer to get than if we stuck to the California legislature and governor. But, once it was before the people, I of course supported voting against the initiative. Allowing gay marriage is the right thing to do. In any case, the comment I tried to post is quite a bit more limited in scope and is based on the statistical information available as of Wednesday morning November 5, 2008:
A few people seem to be interested in whether or not the black vote was decisive.
If the following standard analysis assumptions are true the answer is probably a very close ‘no’, but at least one of the assumptions seems very possibly false and with other fairly likely assumptions the answer looks like a ‘yes’.
My assumptions are:
1. that the vote among black people was as reported (69% Yes on 8).
2. that black people make up 6.7% of the CA population
3. that black people represented a share of the votes equal to their share of the population
I further assume that 8 passes with 52% which seems the likely number at this point.
Given each 1000 voters, black people in CA represent 67 of them.
There are 520 Yes votes and 480 No votes for each 1000.
At 69%, Black voters voted 46 Yes and 21 No for each 1000.
If they voted like White voters (55% No) they would have voted 31 Yes votes and 36 No votes.
That would make the final tally 505 Yes and 495 No votes. (50.5% to 49.5%). [numbers very slightly rounded]
But this analysis is VERY sensitive to assumption #3. It appears that black people in CA may have voted in a greater share than that of their representation of the population. Right around 10% of the vote.
That would mean that given each 1000 voters black people in CA represent 100 of them.
At 69% Yes on 8 that would be 69 Yes and 31 No for each 1000. If they had voted like White voters they would have voted 45 Yes and 55 No. That would make the final vote equal 496 Yes and 504 No (proposition loses 49.6% to 50.4%).
Interestingly, at the 10% vote share level, if a small majority of black people voted against the measure it would have lost (49% Yes, 51% No gives the measure a loss at 49.9%).
Basically, if the black voter share is 10% or higher, the black vote difference from the white vote made the difference so long as the final total is at or below 52%. And if the black voter share is any higher than 10%, it made the difference even if black voters had only split 50-50 instead of the 45-55 shown in white voters.
What does this mean for black people, gay people and California in general? I have no idea.