Marriage Indifference Revisited

In the week since California voters approved Proposition 8, much has been written about the religion of those who promoted the measure, about the race and ethnicity of those who voted for it, and even a bit about the age of those who voted against it. Oddly, the marital status of voters has been a seldom mentioned footnote to all the above. This is odd since it was a measure regarding marriage.

According to exit polling posted at CNN’s website, 60% of married voters supported Prop. 8, and 62% of unmarried voters rejected it. This is an interesting difference and not surprising. By a large margin, those who feel that marriage is significant enough to take part in one wish the nature of that institution at the end of 2008 to be the same as it was at the beginning of 2008. Similarly, indifference or hostility to multi-gender composition as a required component of marriage is more widely found among those who haven’t made themselves part of a marriage.

(See also Most and Least Marriage-Indifferent States.)


Ronald George, Chief Justice of California’s Supreme Court, will face a retention vote in 2010, as will Associate Justice Carlos Moreno, another member of the court majority that overturned California’s requirement that married couples be composed of a man and a woman. (In 1986, Chief Justice Rose Bird and two Associate Justices, Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin, were removed from the bench by California voters due to perception that they were soft on crime.) If Proposition 8 should be ruled invalid by California’s Supreme Court sometime in the next couple of years, there likely will be many voters who supported the measure who will reject George and Moreno. On the other hand, if George and Moreno play a role in the court upholding Proposition 8, the number of people who will vote against them may be even higher: there will be people still upset about Prop. 22 having been overturned who will vote to reject them, plus there will be anti-8s who will vote against them. Fortunately, the dictates of Blind Justice will prevent such political considerations from swaying Justices George and Moreno, or even entering their juridical minds. Just in case, though, maybe the pro-8s will need to send a message out that, hey, anyone could rule a law unconstitutional, just a little difference of legal opinion, and that’s all behind us now, but overturning an amendment? Now that would be a problem.

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

4 thoughts on “Marriage Indifference Revisited

  1. By a large margin, those who feel that marriage is significant enough to take part in one wish the nature of that institution at the end of 2008 to be the same as it was at the beginning of 2008.

    Many of the young voters who overwhelmingly voted against prop 8 may well “feel that marriage is significant enough to take part in one,” but just haven’t had the chance to do so yet. Marriage and age are not independent factors, and we know that prop 8 voting patterns have strong correlation with age (as you mentioned). So I think your argument would be more compelling if you could compare the numbers adjusted for age. I guess you could turn that around–the age numbers would be more compelling if adjusted for marriage status. But either way, that’s data I would like to see.

  2. John, these numbers are interesting, but I think you trying to make them do more work than they can. In addition to the adjustment for age, we also would need to account for the overwhelming preference for prop 8 among African-Americans, a group which shows great indifference to marriage as measured by the incidence of marriage, divorce, and child-bearing out of wedlock.

    Your prior post on indifference to marriage has the same problem. As you noted, 4 states make the top ten on both lists. It is hard to build a strong argument when 40% of your data argues against you, either way.

  3. That’s right. With my previous post I had an idea and looked at the data. Some hints of what I was thinking could be found there, but far short of anything definitive. With this post, there is only so much to work with; the numbers for married and unmarried voters were not subdivided as was done with age and race, or income and race. The lack of a finer-grained look at marital status seems like a big omission since this was a question about marriage. Of course, the polling that was conducted was probably focused on the presidential race, and the Prop. 8 info is piggybacking on that work.

    Mark’s thoughts on the intersection of race and marital status are interesting. Here’s one to add to that: the strong support for Prop. 8 among blacks, a group that has lower marriage rates, means that if yes and no voting groups are adjusted for race, then the marital status difference between yes and no voters is even greater. Is it legitimate to adjust for race? In many queries like this it is considered necessary.

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