President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage is resonating on multiple local levels. In states where same-sex marriage has been at the forefront of public debate, the president’s position may have caused some black voters to reconsider their stance on gay marriage, recent polls indicate. And it’s making a difference in Minnesota, too, where voters in November will go to the polls to decide on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
After Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage in May, the phones at Minnesota United for All Families’ campaign headquarters were ringing off the hook.
“The next day, we didn’t have enough chairs for everybody wanting to work with the campaign,” the anti-amendment group’s press secretary Kate Brickman told TPM. Volunteer interest “definitely swelled,” she added.
A survey to be released Tuesday from Public Policy Polling (D) indicates a “big shift” against the amendment over the past four months. A January PPP poll of Minnesota showed that 48 percent of voters support the amendment, while 44 percent are opposed. The results fell along generational lines: voters under the age of 64 oppose the amendment. Seniors support the amendment 58/32.
Brickman said she wasn’t surprised to see PPP announce that Minnesota is seeing a shift against the amendment. “The momentum has been accelerating more and more,” she said. “Following North Carolina and Obama’s statement, people really started talking about it.”
If the PPP numbers show that more and more Minnesotans are opposed to the amendment, Brickman said it is a testament to the “power of conversations.” The campaign is focused on getting Minnesotans to talk about marriage equality. “People who are willing to talk about why they’re voting no with their friends and family is the most powerful thing that can happen,” she said.
Hamline University political science professor David Schultz agrees that Obama’s endorsement is energizing Minnesotans against the amendment. The president is popular in Minnesota, he said, so voters equate support for Obama with opposition to the amendment.
The amendment has seen an “erosion of support” over the past few months. Schultz added that independents are coming out against the amendment. The centrists might not be fully supportive of legalizing gay marriage, he said, but they don’t like elected officials “fiddling with the Constitution.”
“A shift has occurred,” Schultz told TPM.
If Minnesotans vote down the amendment, the North Star state will be the first among 30 other states to reject such a proposal. The Republican state legislature a year ago voted to send the measure to the ballot. Obama’s campaign, before the president publicly came out in favor of gay marriage, opposed the amendment, calling it “divisive” and “discriminatory.”
The pro-amendment campaign, Minnesota for Marriage, did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com