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Shoddy journalism on the mythical gay-black divide

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By Scottie Thomaston

Typically writing, especially writing an opinion piece that wishes to express a particular point of view to readers so that they come away with certain clearly-defined and persuasively informative new ideas, follows a well-known format. You start by introducing an idea. Then you back it up with facts and key points that are essential to understanding your stated idea. Then you conclude in a way that ties everything together.

It’s a simple, three step process, so sometimes it’s just strange to watch it go all so horribly awry, as it did in this piece over at The Atlantic, “Why Obama Isn’t Backing Gay Marriage”.

The piece aims to explain to readers why the president is not yet a supporter of marriage equality. By the end of it I was just mad at its writer, and I forgot all about the marriage equality thing. Because, you see, as the writer sees it, it’s the fault of black people:

…it splits the two core constituencies that make up President Obama’s base: college-aged voters and African-Americans.

Young voters are the driving force behind making gay marriage politically acceptable. But black voters, despite their overwhelming support for the president, are among the leading opponents of gay marriage.

As an initial point, I’m not totally sure what “leading opponents” actually means in this context. It sounds dangerous and threatening. But are “black voters” actually leading any opposition to gay marriage? Are there black voter drives to oppose it? Are there black voters speaking out in huge numbers, or enormous campaigns with African Americans at the forefront in opposition to marriage rights? He doesn’t provide any evidence or even any suggestion beyond the phrase “leading opponents.”

Certainly left unmentioned in the piece is the fact that the NAACP and civil rights leaders like Julian Bond and Ben Jealous were and are still actively campaigning for marriage equality in any number of states and regions.

Then again, however, when the article does introduce evidence, it’s so absurd and incorrect that it does lead one to think maybe they were right to avoid the introduction of even more of this stuff. It’s so, so bad:

The bigger element consists of African-American voters, who are solidly opposed to gay marriage. California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage passed in 2008 thanks to overwhelming black support; 70 percent backed it, according to exit polls. Recent gay marriage legislation in Maryland drew opposition from leading Democratic African-American legislators in the state.

Alright. As anyone who’s read virtually any information about Proposition 8 in California knows, the initial exit poll claiming 70% black opposition was incorrect. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a study that was conducted by political scientists disproving the “70%” number. Using a flawed exit poll that was taken apart in a comprehensive study is not an effective way to make a point.

Aside from the 70% number, though related, is the general theme that black people are to blame for the way that vote turned out. They are not, as people have been shouting consistently since the vote was announced in November 2008.

And then, after presenting no evidence to make this point, the writer says “Obama can’t afford to even risk losing the deep enthusiasm black voters have towards him.” He then goes on to further avoid presentation of evidence on this point. Confused, I searched for polling data that would suggest that the president would lose black voters if he announced support for marriage equality. There is no polling data on this front. I searched for anecdotal evidence, and there are a couple of outspoken pastors but generally the people who are discussing these things are those in support, for instance the NAACP. I have no doubt that he “can’t afford” to lose a constituency that supports him in great numbers, but having read absolutely zero evidence of any sort that this will happen, one is left with the distinct impression that this piece should not have yet made its way to press.

And in its closing, in case you were uncertain where this was all heading, he tells us directly and forthrightly that black people as a constituency are in fact to blame for the lack of announcing of marriage equality support by the president, oddly typing that “it’s a crucial element of his own base that’s preventing the president from taking bolder steps to advance a cause that he seems to believe in[.]” Now, I mean, pick fights all you want. Page views and Facebook shares are great and all that. But seriously, throughout the piece, the only evidence the writer presented was (1) AAs vote in high numbers for Democratic presidents and especially support this one (2) a flawed exit poll from a single ballot initiative four years ago (3) vague comments about people (who?) who might not vote for the president if he announces support for marriage (with nary a mention, of course, of how the president already took a substantive action on this front, announcing that the DOJ will stop defending DOMA in court; though that won’t lead to marriage all across the country, it’s more of a substantive decision than an announcement of support of marriage would be, and magically, still, he is not being abandoned.)

So, in closing, please make it stop already.

82 Comments

  • 1. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 10:49 am

    This same notion that African American evangelicals are a monolithic bloc that are willing to place their views on marriage equality above all their other possible political concerns and interests was being peddled in comments on this blog a couple of days ago. Seeing this myth spread in mainstream media sources gives me great concern.

  • 2. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:00 am

    It seems to be everywhere in the mainstream media, yeah. Just searching at Google News turns up a lot of results from the past month.

    What bothers me so much is not just that it's out there but all these pieces of writing on this topic are so incorrect and based on faulty premises, and then they don't even bother to provide evidence for their main points. If the way they see things is completely accurate then can they please, please go ahead and post actual evidence in support of it? I'll wait!

    Sheesh.

    There seems to be an odd determination among some people to make this stuff appear true.

  • 3. Owen  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Someone on another site made a great point: Compare the Congressional Republican Caucus to the Congressional Black Caucus. That really tells you a lot about where our real problem lies.

  • 4. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Yeah that's something that always came up in Maryland, too. People wanted to give white Republicans a pass for their votes against marriage and solely blame "black churches" for it. If we'd had more GOP yes voters it probably would've passed in 2010.

  • 5. Brian  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I'm all for blaming white GOP'ers for their votes and positions against gay marriage, and your point in this article does carry some weight. However, to just dismiss all this talk about African-American's being against gay marriage is just silly. The huge African-American churches of MD will get their entire congregations to vote against gay marriage in MD in November, and the referendum vote is going to go against gay marriage, as much as I hate to see that. If you think African-Americans are not largely against gay marriage, we just kid ourselves. If we don't recognize our obstacles, they will certainly defeat us. A majority of African-Americans ARE against gay marriage. It is a fact. Ignore it if you wish.

  • 6. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I'm dismissing the article itself for making claims without backing it up with anything at all. That's really the extent of it. I see people making these claims about "black people" and "black churches" preventing the president from acting and preventing marriage (even though they didn't prevent people from voting for marriage in MD or DC) and all this other stuff, and I think it's totally fine if people want to present facts on this.

    But the article used a poll about black support for Democrats and President Obama along with a flawed exit poll from one voter initiative four years ago. I'm just saying these sorts of claims attacking an entire race of people should be backed up by better evidence. The article failed spectacularly at that.

  • 7. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:39 am

    You state this as a prediction of future events that is certain to happen. What evidence do you have to support this prediction?

  • 8. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:44 am

    For the exit polls, there's only the study:
    http://www.thetaskforce.org/press/releases/pr_1_0

    But keep in mind that exit poll data is not particularly reliable in the first place.And I'm not sure there's anything beyond that poll and the study to give us more information. If you want a breakdown of the number of voters, and strong evidence that "the black vote" was way overblown for Prop 8, there's a post my friend wrote that's been widely cited: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/07/656272/-

  • 9. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:46 am

    http://rodonline.typepad.com/rodonline/2009/01/ne

    This is the followup study that is linked in Scottie's article. It suggest 59%.

  • 10. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:51 am

    One important reality about the Prop 8 vote is that African Americans are a very small percentage of the California electorate. If all of them had voted against Prop 8 it would have still passed. The continuing furor over that exit poll seems to imply that they were responsible for its passage. That always strikes me as a distortion.

  • 11. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 11:58 am

    People see a big number (70%!!!!!!!) and think that necessarily means it's a huge amount of people. Some nuance would have definitely been very helpful in this discussion. Even if the 70% number were true, or as you said, 0%, it still doesn't "prove" anything in terms of how Prop 8 passed.

  • 12. Don in Texas  |  March 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    New York Times: Marriage equality effort attracts significant new donors.

  • 13. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    With all due respect, Scottie, your report is as 'shoddy' as the one you criticize. Bear in mind that this is coming from a PhD candidate in Political Science, with an expertise in LGBT politics.
    You mischaracterize the state of my discipline. Contrary to your implications, political science does not 'know' (in any certain way) what role race has to play in anti-marriage equality battles. You unfairly and inaccurately characterize and entire discipline; that is irresponsible and should be corrected.
    And, as for the "comprehensive study" from the task force that you cite, it has been roundly criticized. It does not treat religion as an interactive variable, it does not interact the variables of race and religion, it uses polls that were taken of the wake of the election when African-Americans had every reason understate the role of their race, and it does not account for any of the research that says that 'civil rights' arguments are racially contentious in general. Besides, social science research is generally peer-reviewed. That study was not, meaning that it went through a less rigorous vetting process than did the junk science that opponents of marriage equality rely on to make the point that gays and lesbians are pedophiles.
    In other words, I understand you have an argument to make–and you may even be right, but for you to be deceitful, disrespectful of an entire social science discipline, and uncritical of flawed work is no way to make it. For shame.

  • 14. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Your evidence is as flawed as theirs!

  • 15. Jim  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I think Obama has already "evolved" on gay marriage, but won't "come out" until after he (hopefully) wins re-election. I don't think there's anything racial about his stand. I think it's purely political!

  • 16. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    ?

    The only claims I'm making are that (1) there wasn't evidence backing up this piece (2) the exit poll is considered flawed, and there are numbers both in that study and in the other piece I linked as well as Coates' discussion of the study that I linked.

    If there's evidence supporting his claims he didn't cite it. That's my issue.

    Citing one flawed exit poll from one voter initiative in one state four years ago to claim some national problem exists today among a certain race is not a very persuasive thing.

  • 17. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Yeah, but my point is that for both of those claims that you are making, you have no more evidence than him. Our discipline is still hotly debating this issue, including whether those exit polls are flawed. The reason this is so is because the evidence you cite to claim that it IS flawed is mishandled in all of those cases.
    You just gloss over half of my discipline and reduce a very intense debate down to a distilled claim that you want to make. It is irresponsible and should be fixed.

  • 18. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I agree. I think he's like any politician: terrified of doing anything conventional wisdom says is too radical. Look at how everyone in DC was So Very Concerned about DADT repeal. Meanwhile 80% of Americans consistently have wanted it repealed.

  • 19. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Look, I am presenting work on this very topic in Chicago in mid-April. The jury is still out. Normally we could say "if you want to ignore that, do so at your own peril," but this actually has a real impact on work that some people are doing. You really need to think for a minute about how what you are (recklessly) claiming impacts other peoples works.

  • 20. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    As best I can wade through your posts, your fundamental disagreement seems to be with the followup analysis of the exit poll. It would be more useful to explain your criticisms of that analysis that engaging in what is a decidedly personal attack on the author of this post.

  • 21. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    How so? They claimed "black people are preventing the president from embracing marriage" and as evidence they introduced a poll showing black support for the president and a flawed exit poll from one voter initiative from one state four years ago.

    I made the claim that they didn't produce enough evidence and that the evidence they did produce is irrelevant and flawed in and of itself.

    If you are upset about the Task Force study it would be interesting to hear how that particular study is flawed, but I still don't think if that study is flawed it detracts from my basic claim that evidence was not produced to back up this story.

  • 22. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    It isn't a personal attack, it is qualitatively true. He is being reckless in what he is saying. For example, look at the three links that argue that the exit poll numbers were exaggerated. They are links to three separate pages. But, if you follow the links on those pages to the report that they cite, they all cite the exact same report which is the Egan and Sherrill argument that mishandles the variables.
    And Richard, I would take this moment to remind you that 1) heated debates are not always personal attacks, and 2) my references to Scottie are no more personal attacks than his misuse of an entire disciplines work is a personal affront to them. I have nothing against the other; he made a mistake, I just wish he would correct it. That's all.

  • 23. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Of course it does. I explained four ways that that report is flawed, if you decided to ignore those criticisms, it is not my responsibility to repeat them until you do.
    You make the argument, however, that we 'know' that those polls were 'incorrect'. And the evidence you cite for that is three links to the same report which you don't critically examine yourself. How is that any different than what you claim the Atlantic piece did?

  • 24. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    This particular debate strikes me as unnecessarily personal.

  • 25. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    But you aren't even explaining how I am being "reckless" by linking to a study and saying that a study was done that says the exit poll is flawed.

    I mean you're sort of yelling at me calling me "reckless" "deceitful" "disrespectful" and other things, but I've simply pointed to an existing study that says the Prop 8 exit poll was flawed. Your argument seems to be that I should not have linked that study, I guess…?

  • 26. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    "As anyone who’s read virtually any information about Proposition 8 in California knows, the initial exit poll claiming 70% black opposition was incorrect."

    That sentence. That one sentence, is not true. It may or may not be incorrect, but no one knows it. And there is as much literature on either side of the debate because of the myriad of statistical ways to parse the variables, all of which are much more thorough and exacting than the Task Force Report. But you claim that we 'know' such-and-such, and that the preponderance of the literature says such-and-such, and for you to say that relies on very little, and very faulty evidence (i.e. three links to the same article). And my only argument is that there is no difference between that and what you argue that The Atlantic story did.

  • 27. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I am arguing that three links to different stories that cite the same report, a report which is as flawed as the one that The Atlantic relies on is "reckless" and "deceitful". The disrespect comes when you fail to mention that political scientists have broadly disagreed upon this point.
    Let me come at this from a different tack:

    The Atlantic: Uses an exit poll (which may or may not be flawed) to argue that Blacks on the whole oppose marriage equality.

    You: Use a report (which may or may not be flawed [and in fact is]) to argue that Blacks on the whole don't oppose marriage equality.

    My argument is that when you claim that they use bad evidence, and then you proceed to use evidence which is just as routinely criticized as theirs, you merely replicate their error. That is deceitful and that is reckless. I also called it shoddy. Now, you identify for me the one difference between your article and the Atlantic's. I would wager that you can't, and so all your criticisms of that article are equally as valid of yours.

  • 28. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I also linked to a post that crunched the numbers re: the black vote for Prop 8. Perhaps you missed that. Either way, now you're saying that there's even more studies out there that would back me up? Cool.

    There is also the fact that exit polls are not very reliable in the first place.

    And there's also the fact that I was trying to explain in the post: using that exit poll as evidence of a huge national mysterious black coalition of people preventing the president from embracing marriage makes absolutely no sense. I would be interested in hearing why you think presenting that initiative's exit poll evidence would be useful in determining the president's stance on marriage equality.

  • 29. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    By the way, I am not "yelling" at you, and this is not personal. It is a valid, and accurate appraisal of your work. It has nothing against you, and I don't know why you and Richard are injecting it with such emotion. I suspect it is because you have yet to offer a defense of the substance of what you have said. In any case, I have nothing against anyone, just against their work.
    And for the record, I would say the same things about the Atlantic article. You make two opposing claims, but make the same error in making them.

  • 30. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    This is where you're wrong: "to argue that Blacks on the whole don't oppose marriage equality."

    No.

    I'm saying the author didn't back up what he was saying with evidence. Nowhere am I claiming that no black person ever opposes marriage for gays and lesbians.

  • 31. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    The word "deceitful" implies malicious intent, not just inaccuracy of information. Your use of that term gives your comments a decidedly personal character.

  • 32. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Yet again, I never argue for the validity of the exit poll. Your claim that I must agree with you or agree with The Atlantic is a fundamental flaw in your response to me. I have said time and again that you both make the same mistake.
    Exit polls have their strengths and weaknesses. Just like the reports which support you have their strengths and weaknesses. Your evidence is no better than theirs. And the fact that you have to mischaracterize what I say (for example, you argue "Either way, now you're saying that there's even more studies out there that would back me up?", when in reality I am saying that there is as much literature to "back you up" as their is to criticize you) is very telling.
    Your evidence is no better than an exit poll. That is not to say that an exit poll is particularly desirable, but then again neither is the evidence that you cite. In both cases, it overstates the argument.

  • 33. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Perhaps I'm just mildly offended at being called deceitful, disrespectful, reckless, irresponsible, shameful…

  • 34. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Then my error was in assuming that Scottie did enough research before making this post to be qualified to write on it?
    Either it was deceitful and he covered up the fact that this debate is far from settled, or it was sloppy, and he didn't do enough work to know that this debate is far from settled. In any case it would seem personal, but it is, in fact, just an honest assessment of the work.

  • 35. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    The argument is simply that the exit poll is flawed. I cited evidence that it is flawed.

    Could you show me evidence that (1) the exit poll is not flawed, and (2) The Task Force report is not to be trusted?

  • 36. Larry  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    So if I understand correctly, there is a paper by Egan/Sherrill arguing the original exit poll analysis was done incorrectly. And it is your assertion that the Egan/Sherrill paper is itself flawed. If that's the case then unless there are independent studies of the original exit poll data, the original exit poll data is unconfirmed, but not necessarily wrong.

    My questions are 1) what is your evidence that the Egan/Sherrill work is itself flawed, and 2) what other independent analyses of race vs, opinion on marriage equality are there? It's fine to say we shouldn't talk about something because it is flawed, but it's better to replace the flawed study with an unflawed study.

  • 37. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Again, you are averse to accurately characterizing what I say. I never claim–even in the one passage that you can muster to cite–that you say "that no black person ever opposes marriage for gays and lesbian." What I say is that you indicate that it is wrong to argue that Blacks on the whole oppose marriage equality. And my argument is that we don't know if that is true so you can't plausibly say it.
    Either Blacks do support marriage equality, don't support it, or are indifferent to it. Saying any of those to be true (as both The Atlantic and you do) are untrue. The reality is that we don't "know" (your word, not mine).
    It could be any one of those, the evidence is unclear.

  • 38. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I don't understand what your issue is with my post.

    You seem to be claiming the issue is far from settled, yet you're taking issue with my characterization of it and not the author of the original article's characterization. Really seems like you've made up your mind.

    If the issue of the exit poll is far from settled then are you mad that the author of the original post is using it as "evidence" of a widespread national problem? Because that's what I'm mad about, too.

  • 39. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I don't indicate that it is wrong to argue that.

    I indicate that it is wrong to argue that without evidence. Everyone should feel free to argue whatever they want but it would have been nice if he backed up his points with evidence.

    You seem to be saying we don't know if it is true or not, so why was the article written in the first place, then? If there exists no evidence then why make the claim?

  • 40. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Perhaps, but I meant no offense. I have explained why I use them, and I stand by them. I believe you wrote this knowing that there is no evidence either way (you say as much when you say that there is no certain polling either way).
    But instead of making the claim that we don't know if what The Atlantic is saying is true, you make a totally different argument: that "anyone who has read anything" knows it is not true. And that is wrong of you to do (especially if you know that it may be true). That is where it is deceitful.
    It is disrespectful, because it fails to acknowledge the hundreds of hard working political scientists and activists whose work continues to illuminate a complex interaction of religion and race, by assuming that one side is right and the other is wrong even before the discussion is over.
    It is reckless and irresponsible because that debate is meant to clarify the ongoing struggle for equality for gays and lesbians and for African-Americans. There is a social justice goal for both sides in this ongoing debate.
    And if you felt offended by what I had to say, Scottie, then I invite you to (and Richard, for that matter) to consider if maybe an academic who works hard to further something in which he or she believes, and who has worked his or her whole life to go to a good school, to compete amongst the best, and to learn this issue from every possible dimension might be offended by you using flimsy evidence to foreclose their research right from the front.
    Your argument implied that there is an answer to this question, you said we "know" it. But we don't. And for you to do so is hurtful to those who work day in and day out to learn it.

  • 41. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    My issue with your post is that this debate is far from settled, yet you claim it is. You argue that we "know" the answer, and we simply don't. I don't. You don't. Even African-American voters don't. But you claim we do.
    That is the issue. And, as I have said in a few posts on here, you are as guilty as the original author. I am not "mad" at either of you (again, infusing an intellectual debate with an emotion that is not there), but I am critical of both of you.

  • 42. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    And, for the fourth or fifth time, he shouldn't have made that claim. But neither should you. You argue that "it is wrong to argue … without evidence". But he has evidence. A really bad exit poll. You have evidence too. A really bad analysis of some data. He has more evidence (there are more polls, I am doing a logit analysis on one as we speak for my presentation in Chicago). And so do you (there are a lot more that argue that the exit poll is wrong). But neither of you have any better or more or less evidence than the other. So your second wrong is not a right: you and he were wrong for the same reason.

  • 43. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I gave you evidence that the Task Force report is not to be trusted. I will find the article that was presented in New Orleans in January to (as you would say) "back me up", but until that time, the four criticisms of it that I offered (which you ignored) will have to do.

  • 44. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I agree, I have offered four specific criticisms of the Egan and Sherrill article, and I am looking for more peer reviewed pieces.
    I really want to stress to you all not to overlook those four criticisms of that piece, however. They are very important observations.

  • 45. Lymis  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Regardless of the numbers, which I acknowledge can BE the story in some contexts, in terms of Prop 8, it was pretty apparent from the first that two concepts were getting intermixed, and therefore pretty inevitable that some kind of weird misunderstanding was going to come out of it.

    A common refrain is that American black people should be sufficiently sensitized to institutional and tradition-based discrimination that they should automatically side with any other group being discriminated against by law.

    I avidly read stories in the leadup to and aftermath of Prop 8 – and one of the early stories was that there seemed to be a presumption that black voters would be natural allies of gay people – and in a lot of cases, weren't. And that the higher turnout for Obama which "should" have involved those presumed natural allies voting against Prop 8 didn't turn out that way.

    I think that what became the story of "black people voted overwhelmingly against Prop 8" actually started as something more like "We knew we weren't going to win over the Mormon vote or those solidly conservative white Republican counties, so there's no shock or disappointment there, but it comes as a surprising betrayal that black Californians voted against it."

    With the perception that guaranteed allies had turned on us. Now, whether there was any rational basis to believe that any sort of outreach, communication, cooperation, or education had been going on to actually create those allies and justify that presumption is an entirely separate question.

    The more important question to me, one that I've never seen discussed, was why the hell the voter turnout in the blue counties, especially San Francisco County, was so shockingly low.

  • 46. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    My whole reason for writing this post is: the guy shouldn't have written an article making that claim without definitive evidence.

    You seem to agree. I'm not sure how that ended up in personal attacks.

    I really don't think I'm sure what "debate" you mean: do you mean the debate over that exit poll itself or the general one over AAs and marriage? If the debate over AAs and marriage is unsettled then I honestly don't see why the article was written. The article claims that black people are all opposed to marriage and are preventing the president from supporting marriage.

    If the debate is still ongoing, then why did the author find it necessary to make claims like this, especially without supportive evidence?

  • 47. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    1) It didn't end up in personal attacks.
    2) "I really don't think I'm sure what "debate" you mean: do you mean the debate over that exit poll itself or the general one over AAs and marriage?" Both.
    3) I do agree with your criticism of The Atlantic article. I just wish you would acknowledge that it applies to your article as well.
    4) "If the debate is still ongoing, then why did the author find it necessary to make claims like this, especially without supportive evidence?" I don't know. I am not the author. Just like I don't know why you felt the need to make the claim you did–in an ongoing debate–without supportive evidence. (Well you did have evidence. So did he. In both cases, they were really bad evidence.)

  • 48. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    I think you're sort of ascribing motives to me, when you claim that I wrote this knowing some fact that apparently you're aware of but still haven't shared with me. That is a bit unfair. You're essentially saying, without ever having dealt with me or my writing before, that I've written something intentionally misleading.

  • 49. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    On the contrary, I have seen your writing on here. It is usually the result of some research and forethought. I had assumed this was too. Then certainly you would know that the claim you were making was as weakly supported as the one you criticized.
    If that was not the case, and if you didn't know, then now you know, and this article should be immediately corrected. In either case, it is reckless and irresponsible to make claims that foreclose and ongoing debate.

  • 50. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    The campaign to defeat Prop 8 was poorly organized. There was little or no outreach to the black community. There was no effort to involve black gays and lesbians in doing such outreach which likely would have been the most effective approach. There were lots of other problems with the effort. The pro Prop 8 campaign on the other hand was highly organized and obviously effective.

  • 51. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    It isn't.

  • 52. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    The better paradigm is the Sherkat, De Vries, and Creek analysis, which does not say that the Black community–as a group–does not oppose marriage equality. Instead, it asks, "Where the African-American community does oppose gay marriage, is it a function of race itself, or is it a function of more religious influences, which happen to be more prominent in the African-American community?"
    This is important, because Egan and Sherrill do not interact religion with race as variables (in other words, they treat them as variables with independent influences on the dependent variable.) This is something that The Atlantic does not acknowledge, nor does Scotties post.

  • 53. Richard Lyon  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Your opinion hardly qualifies as objective and impersonal.

  • 54. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    I don't consider irrelevant (the exit poll has nothing to do with the question of why president obama won't support marriage) and flawed (or questionable at best) evidence to be real evidence.

  • 55. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Objective: yes. Impersonal: yes, but only in the scientific context. All I am saying is that it is not "personal" in the sense that I have not defended each and every one of my comments. And here we are, still commenting to a blog post which makes a false claim on bad evidence.
    I am trying to keep on the substance of the issue.

  • 56. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I agree. But neither is the Egan and Sherrill piece, especially when compared with other resources we could use to evaluate the question.

  • 57. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Hence the reason I call his evidence "really bad." I never argued that his evidence is better than yours, I just said both of you have really bad evidence.

  • 58. Mark H.  |  March 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Here some evidence about the Task Force report. The poll used in the report suffers in its reliability. It was conducted November 6-16, 2008, in the wake of the vote. Therefore, the respondents were already tainted by the results of Proposition 8. Exit polls should be expected to be more reliable (and in fact they don't suffer from this unreliability that you claim in general) because respondents are asked about how they voted without knowing the overall outcome. In California, as you note, there was heavy media about how the Black vote had been to blame. Therefore, when you get a call and are asked how you voted, and you have read these articles, you are more likely to respond that you voted no (when in fact you may have voted yes). It's called social desirability bias. Therefore, there is a strong likelihood that the results from the Task Force study are downward biased. I would guess the true number was closer to the exit poll.

    Either way, when the exit polls are studied, they are done with multivariate regression analysis. Political scientists are able to control for factors, including race and religiosity. If religion is the explanation, there should be no explanatory power for race when holding religion constant. However, there is. And this racial gap in voting is existent across states that have voted on gay marriage (not just California). It's not placing blame on anyone. There is statistical evidence of a racial voting gap on same-sex marriage (Hispanic voters are also more conservative in comparison to White voters).

  • 59. Brian  |  March 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    You def hit the nail on the head Lymis! The presumed ally that should be black people (a presumed common cause of fighting discrimination) is viewed by a lot of gays and lesbians as an absolute betrayal, and people lashed out at that betrayal. Now Richard raises an interesting point. Part of the problem w/ the defeat Prop 8 campaign was they didn't reach out to the black community. And this article by Scottie now says this whole thing about blacks being against gay marriage is a myth. HAVE WE NOT LEARNED FROM OUR MISTAKES??? let's not make the same ones again by pretending that black people as a whole are our allies in this quest, when in fact, a good majority of them are not.

  • 60. Mark H.  |  March 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I am very familiar with the statistical evidence and have been working on this issue for some time. Full disclosure, I am also a Ph.D. student in Political Science, and I study direct democracy, public opinion and voting behavior, and identity politics.

    Here some evidence about the Task Force report. The poll used in the report suffers in its reliability. It was conducted November 6-16, 2008, in the wake of the vote. Therefore, the respondents were already tainted by the results of Proposition 8. Exit polls should be expected to be more reliable (and in fact they don't suffer from this unreliability that you claim in general) because respondents are asked about how they voted without knowing the overall outcome. In California, as you note, there was heavy media about how the Black vote had been to blame. Therefore, when you get a call and are asked how you voted, and you have read these articles, you are more likely to respond that you voted no (when in fact you may have voted yes). It's called social desirability bias. Therefore, there is a strong likelihood that the results from the Task Force study are downward biased. I would guess the true number was closer to the exit poll.

    Either way, when the exit polls are studied, they are done with multivariate regression analysis. Political scientists are able to control for factors, including race and religiosity. If religion is the explanation, there should be no explanatory power for race when holding religion constant. However, there is. And this racial gap in voting is existent across states that have voted on gay marriage (not just California). It's not placing blame on anyone. There is statistical evidence of a racial voting gap on same-sex marriage (Hispanic voters are also more conservative in comparison to White voters).

  • 61. Justin  |  March 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Scottie, your post is misguided. Black polling respondents are more opposed to gay marriage than any other race. That is simply an objective fact. Now, that fact may not sit well with the PC gay lefties who believe that gays and blacks are making common cause against their oppressors. But most black people don't see it that way in the least. We have real work to do in the African American community and it's time to stop pretending we don't.

  • 62. Rich  |  March 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    "Now, that fact may not sit well with the PC gay lefties who believe that gays and blacks are making common cause against their oppressors"

    It appears, through your rather surly characterization, that your position regarding a shared search for equality of blacks and gays is that there is no common ground here and that you harbor animus towards gays. If true, your animus, then, is that much more toxic, particularly to black gays.

  • 63. Str8Grandmother  |  March 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    What I would like to know is what is the statistics of the current opinion polls today. Surely they are polling in Maryland which has a significant number of African Americans according to an article I read on Bilerico
    http://www.bilerico.com/2012/03/freedom_to_marry_

    I am not from the area so I didn't know that Maryland had a significant number of African Americans.

  • 64. Justin  |  March 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Rich, I'm not even going to try to follow the pretzel logic by which you arrive at the absurd conclusion that I harbor "animus towards gays." Perhaps it would be better for you to reflect upon what it is in your personality that compels you to immediately level personal attacks against someone with whom you disagree (and against whom you seem to have no arguments).

  • 65. Seth from Maryland  |  March 24, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    i dont know about that , but i know theres alot people around here who feel like they been left defend by thereselves to defend against the wolves

  • 66. Bob  |  March 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I say woot woot to Scottie Thomaston,,,, for this post,,, wow it's become a very heated and very intellectual debate,,, thanks for wading off the deep end Scottie,,, I have to admit my ignorance compared to the political science scholars that pounced on this,,, and hope it eventually brings new insight,,,,, never thought the black american voter thing was as big an influence as all this,,, so thanks again Scottie,,,, sometimes you got to have the courage to ask or say the wrong things to come up with a right answer,,,,, and sounds like all the scholars are working on that ,,, so it also was a timely piece,,,,,

  • 67. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 25, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Claiming that anyone who dares to disagree with the Courage Campaign is racist is no way to handle this Rich. To be honest, I am shocked and saddened by the extent to which merely observing the vast flaws of this posting has led to a response that resembles something one would expect to hear from NOM.
    I, for one, think it is a real shame that LGBT advocates (a class of which I am a part) rely on academics (another group of which I am a part) for testimony in trials and witness reports, only to be so dismissive of them when they write blog posts or criticize other activists.
    My opinion of this group has significantly changed for the worse in one day.

  • 68. devon  |  March 25, 2012 at 5:22 am

    I agree. The maryland vote will likely nullify marriage equality- due almost entirely to 'bishops" and their hatred of gays. Same in NC, unfortunately. Washington state and maine may be successful for equality since neither state has huge numbers of black people.
    Seems to me that blacks hate gays everywhere in the world.

  • 69. Larry  |  March 25, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Facts are facts, even if we don't like them or they make us feel uncomfortable. What we need to do is figure out what the facts are and what we can do to improve them.

    If (and since I don't know this, it's only a hypothetical) the average black is more against marriage equality than the average white, but mainly because of religion (meaning that the average "black Baptist church" is more opposed than the average "white Baptist church" for instance), then we need to find ways to make those churches less homophobic and more focused on civil rights and social justice.

    If on the other hand, the average black is more against marriage equality than the average white because even after accounting for differences in religion, political group, income, etc., then that suggests there's some intrinsic cultural difference. And so we need to make outreach efforts that get at those underlying differences.

    Either way, we shouldn't ignore accurate data, but nor should we allow racist sounding articles to go unchecked. After Prop 8 passed, articles saying it was the black community's fault the law passed, regardless of how true they may have been, did nothing to help the relationship between our communities. I do think there should be a natural common ground, and there are many people who are members of both communities.

  • 70. Lou  |  March 25, 2012 at 9:26 am

    "Mythical?" I wish that were true, but sadly it's not.

  • 71. Kay in Montana  |  March 25, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Thank you for this, Scottie. Huge cheers. This effort by some liberals and progressives to drive a wedge between black people and gays is as infuriating as its premises are false. As if "blacks" and "gays" were two distinctly separate entities; as if black opinion were monolithic; as if many of us who are queer and white do not find this phony wedge to be racist – however inadvertently for some who buy it – to its core. We have to keep challenging this.

  • 72. Seth from Maryland  |  March 25, 2012 at 9:30 am

    South Australia has become the first state to allow a full free vote for both major parties on the issue of same-sex marriage legislation.
    The news, which was confirmed this morning, comes after Premier Jay Weatherill granted the state Labor Caucus a conscience vote when a same-sex marriage bill is put before parliament.

  • 73. Kay in Montana  |  March 25, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Right, Richard. And a number of black groups reached out to the Prop 8 campaign with suggestions, ideas, and offers of help centered around having black people reach out to black people. Their ideas were not valued.

  • 74. Bob  |  March 25, 2012 at 9:34 am

    well said Larry,,,, the color of one's skin does not prevent them from embracing the American values of Freedom and equality for ALL

    if religion stands in the way that religion is misguided and extremist,,,,

    the core value of every person being equal under the law, calls everyone to a higher standard, which is achievable

  • 75. Seth from Maryland  |  March 25, 2012 at 9:36 am

    this really good news for marriage equality in Australia because the Labor party now supports marriage equality and now the liberal party or (the conserative party in Australia) is allowing it members to vote how the feel on the issue instead of having to folllow party lines

  • 76. Rich  |  March 25, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Justin, "PC gay lefties" might better be substituted with, " gays who see, in the black experience of discrimination, common ground for a search for justice". No pretzel logic, just, perhaps, a less inflammatory choice of words. Peace.

  • 77. Guest  |  March 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    While the fact that people have picked on the Black Voters (I also remember Latino's) as two racial groups that were statistically voting Yes on Prop nine, is factually correct.

    The report this individual cites does prove that it wasn't 70% of African American's who supporting Prop 8, they report does clearly show that Hispanic and African Americans were the only racial group that had over 50% of tis voting block support the measure.

    On the matter of race here is the study's breakdown

    White 49%
    African American 58%
    Latino 59%
    Asian 48%

    So if only white voters voted (including all the whites who are conservative for whatever reason) the Prop would have failed.

    When talking strictly race, African American's and Hispanic did more harm then good to the gay rights movement in that election.

    Those are the facts supported by the study the author sites.

    And inside that race (and in all races mind you) you will find all subsets. Religion, Age, gender, education, and income.

  • 78. Martin Pal  |  March 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Bryce you wrote: “My opinion of this group has significantly changed for the worse in one day.”

    I thought you said it wasn’t personal?

    After reading your posts (and the others) with interest and trying to understand the discussion, for you to then write something like the above is supposed to mean what–I wasted my time?

  • 79. fiona64  |  March 26, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Ethnicity is *not* a determining factor in being for or against marriage equality. We've known this for a long time. Far greater predictors are high degrees of religiosity and lower levels of education — regardless of ethnicity. http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2

    While it is true that some ethnic communities have a higher degree of religiosity than others, it is a mistake to say that there is some monolithic block of people of color who automatically are going to be against equality. It is simply not reflected in reality.

  • 80. fiona64  |  March 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Just posted it above The number was in the 50-59 percent range.

  • 81. MightyAcorn  |  March 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Here's a timely revelation from the Maine court documents about how NOM strategized to drive a wedge between equality activists and African-Americans:
    http://holybulliesandheadlessmonsters.blogspot.co

    Looks like they got what they wanted, huh?

  • 82. Seattle Blog Site - The O&hellip  |  May 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    [...] fact that the black-white difference is dwarfed by the generational difference, and the idea that blacks caused the passage of Prop 8 has largely been debunked for the hooey which it is. [...]

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