Alex Blaze

Nate Silver crunches the Iowa numbers

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 06, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: amendment, gay marriage, iowa, lesbian, LGBT, marriage, models, Nate Silver, polling, predictions, referendum, same-sex marriage

Nate Silver over at 538.com predicts that, if a marriage amendment makes it to the ballot in 2012 in Iowa, it's going to be a close battle:

So what does this mean for Iowa? The state has roughly average levels of religiosity, including a fair number of white evangelicals, and the model predicts that if Iowans voted on a marriage ban today, it would pass with 56.0 percent of the vote. By 2012, however, the model projects a toss-up: 50.4 percent of Iowans voting to approve the ban, and 49.6 percent opposed. In 2013 and all subsequent years, the model thinks the marriage ban would fail.

He included several factors, like the religiosity of the citizens in of state, as indicative of a state's ability to pass one of these amendments.

There are obvious issues with the model, like the fact that no state has ever rejected one of these amendments at the ballot booth so there isn't any evidence that these will start to be rejected (Arizona doesn't count anymore), state legislatures who are often required to start the ballot initiative process, and the fact that Iowa will have been performing same-sex marriages for almost four years before this referendum could even happen (which moved the numbers significantly in Massachusetts).

What do you all think? Any Hawkeyes want to weigh in?


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It's been almost 7 years since I left Iowa, but I was there for 24 years. The analysis which makes the most sense to me was written by Herb Strentz, a former journalism prof there:

2012, of course, is a caucus and presidential election year and we have the 2010 gubernatorial election coming up. Those who read election tea leaves no doubt will put the Court decision into the mix. But even before the decision, Iowa Democrats — who tend to be less opposed to same-sex marriages — were getting themselves in trouble. Despite the gains in the 2008 election, Iowa Democrats have already pretty much squandered their riches. The legislature and the Democratic governor, Chet Culver, are often at odds, and state level politics is more a game of bumper cars than efficient or orchestrated decision making. So the Democrats are likely to lose some of their 32-18 advantage in the Iowa Senate, and the House, 56-44. Culver is perceived as maybe being a one-term governor, who has lost support among Democrats thanks in part to vindictiveness against party rivals. At this stage neither 2010 nor 2012 looks good for Iowa Democrats. Their best, and likely, hope is that Iowa Republicans, dominated by the far, far right and evangelicals posing as politicos, will field candidates that force people to vote for Democrats.

His closing mention of the Republican party being dominated by the "far, far, right" has a long history, going back to Pat Robertson and the Religious Right taking it over to the exclusion of moderates.

I suspect there's a reasonable chance of holding off serious consideration of an anti-gay amendment at the statehouse until 2011, which would be my hope.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | April 6, 2009 3:52 PM

Unless they make a change, which I would doubt, the proponents of a constitutional amendment in Iowa will reintroduce an amendment they've tried for a couple of years now, one which pretty closely tracks one adopted in Wisconsin and Kentucky. Indiana's proponents went to the same concept after an ealier version, which would have still permitted the state legislature (but not the courts) to formulate equality through civil unions, etc.

With all of the constant demonizing of the "unelected activist judges" by the Righteous Right, both legislator and the public generally has tended to lose sight of the fact that almost all states which have adopted restrictive amendments have gone beyond the "let's muzzle the judges", to also tying the hands of a popularly elected state legislature.

Iowa folks in particular might well be better attuned, despite the general (and mostly misguided) distrust of the judiciary, to arguments that fully call attention to the real agenda of amendment supporters: making certain that not even modest marriage equality measures can be undertaken by the legislative branch. People may well feel far more reluctant to permanently enshrine such a sweeping restriction if they were made more aware of what was being foisted upon them.

I think the fact that it has to be passed by two sessions of their general assembly (what a great idea after what happened in CA) is a good safeguard against a hectic campaign season and then regret with the product.

Lynn David Lynn David | April 7, 2009 3:03 AM

The closeness of a 2012 election perhaps in association with the plight of a number of gay and lesbian couples which might have married by then (and better used than in California) are likely why the fundies are working on Governor Culver to call a special session of the state legislature to pass the first "reading" of such a state constitutional amendment (yeah, spend all that state money in this economy just to screw over the queers). See Towleroad: Marriage Equality Foes in Iowa Attempting to Reverse Court Ruling

Here's a 2-minute video which leaves me proud to have been an Iowan for 24 years.

Iowa Senate Leader Mike Gronstal explains his opposition to constitutional amendment debate
Monday, April 6

Hey Alex, how about embedding it in its own post? Gronstal makes his point simply, directly, based on solid values... it's a common-sense, aw-shucks midwestern delivery free of rhetorical flourishes, and yet he slays the minority leader he's responding to in the process.

I'm OK with the cartoonish depiction of Iowa as a flat land dominated by corn and hogs, because this is the caliber of folks I knew best there.

By the way, Gronstal has been a member of the Iowa Senate since 1985. He was re-elected decisively (13,375 to 9,740) in 2008 for a 4-year term. He has served as the Democratic Leader in the Senate since 1997. So, he's no political lightweight... he's not likely to fade away any time soon.

I'll do ya one better and put it up in the YGST box for today. Thanks for the link!