2008: Pollsters wonder why Proposition 8 defied expectations / Contra Costa Times

On the question of why Proposition 8 got more votes than expected, the biggest problem is that the secular media sees everything through its own preconceptions, in which religion is suspect at best, and dangerous at worst. This keeps them from being able to have a real understanding of what is going in the American religous scene.

The only churches they visit are mainline protestant congregations with old pastors and empty churches, dying because they have adopted religious pluralism as they mode of operation, and people leave them in streams to move to more conservative congregations

This results in much of the growth and success of the white or multi-ethnic megachurches like Saddleback and Mariners. They do not dwell only on the social issues, but their actual positions on them are not that diffferent from James Dobson of Focus on the Family, other than the tone of voice in which they talk about them. Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback was a big pusher of Proposition 8. Large megachurches are also frequently affiliated with Calvary Chapel, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Evangelical Free Church members, and they all push and vote for pro-marriage items in full force. I visited many of them, and saw large rows of tables and 20 people assigned to sign people up to register and vote.

The Catholics in California are growing rapidly because of immigration from central and South America. After their experiments with moderate ideas as a result of the second Vatican Council, thousands of gays flocked to their Priesthood, and they were responsible almost completely for the Child Abuse scandals in that church in the 1980’s and 1990’s (at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to victims. The Cardinals straightened things out in naming the very conservative Joseph Ratzinger, who is now known as Pope Benedict XVI. He is pushing his church in the direction of conservative social values, and thus a lot more Catholics are voting with us on s issues, for which we love them and have a growing and warm relationship with them.

Black Christians in California are in very high percentages members of very socially conservative churches who are very strong in abortion and pro-marriage issues. They are 6% of the population of California, and are growing in numbers because they have more children than secular families. They vote democratically because they are assured more help for thier income levels. But they always agree with the conservative churches on social issues. They are generally very enthusiastic “Charismatics” in worship style, with lots of “Hallelujah’s and”Amens” being annunciated. They make wonderful Christians and wonderful helpers in pro-marriage issues. Two demoninations that make up a large proporton of their population are (1) the Church of God in Christ, which started the Charismatic movement from Scratch in 1900, and which has 50 churches in Los Angeles; and (2) the First African Methodist Episcopal church, which has some quite liberal leaders but whom are always with us on social issues (they endorsed Proposition 22 and Proposition 8). I met a number of their pastors and Prop 8 events, and am in the process of visiting thier churches building relationships. Africa is having its own massive growth of Charismatic Christianity, and will contain more Christians than any other continent on earch within 50 years.

Among Hispanic Christians in California, a very rapidly-growing group, most are still Catholics, but that is changing as we speak. The most rapid growth among them make up Mexico, Central, and South America’s versions of the “Charismatic Christian” explosion in all of the southern Hemisphere. Their worship styles are lively and loud, and would remind you of a black “Church of God in Christ” or a white “Assemblies of God” service. A fair number of them vote democratically not because they like their social positions, but because they get more assurance about immigration reform that would be more lenient with those now in the country. But on social issues of abortion and especially gay marriage, they are far to the right, and must have voted for Proposition 8 in high percentages (those who are citizens). In summ, Hispanics in California and in the US are growing rapidly, very socially conservative and anti-gay-marriage. They will be natural allies in cultural issues for many years.

Among Asians in California and the U.S. , many Chinese and Japanese who have been in the country for several generations are secular in the way educated Europen society is, and they must be the Asians voting against Proposition 8. They have few children, and will decline in numbers rapidly. The surprise for most Europeans is the very large and growing numbers of Asians of more recent arrival in the country. While they have been coming here, Asia on its home soil has been having its own version of the “Charismatic Explosion”, and at this point 40% of Koreans in Korea are charismatic Christians; 70% of Filipino in the Philippines are charismatic Christians; and there are hundreds of millions of charismatic Christians in communist China. This means that the millions of immigrants from those countries in the last 20 years have been part of this movement. There are huge mega-churches of all of these kinds that no one is very familiar with. Their charismatic characteristics and their worship styles are, as you would expect, quieter, calmer than those of Blacks and Hispanics. Their numbers are so large, and their support for the social issues is spectacular. I attended the multi-ethnic Yes on Prop 8 gathering at the L.A. city hall grounds last Sunday, and the entire place was filled with at least 5 thousand members of these Asian churches. They are a huge factor in the future of Christianity in the U.S., and I am in the process of meeting their pastors, getting to know their people, and facilitating working together with them in future endeavors.

A final group that I will mention is another hidden treasure in U.S. Christianity, of which there are close to a million in California, and we have in the past made little effort to get to know them. They are the members of Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, and the eastern in their names mean coming from the middle east and north Africa, although some of them are from Eastern Europe. They include the Antiochian Orthodox, the Coptic Orthodox (from Egypt), the Syrian Orthodox (from Syria), the Armenian Orthodox (they are not from Armenia in central Europe, but from Asia Minor and Syria), the Maconite Catholics from Syria), and the Assyrian Orthodox church (from Iraq). Almost all of these people are coming to the U.S. under great duress from the predominently Islamic countries of origin, with persecutions and actual genocides; so they have little use for the Islamic culture. I have been joining some of these churches and meeting their leaders, and they are warm and friendly. Without exception, they are EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE on social issues, and push involvement in picketing aborion clinics and all efforts to stop gay marriage. Those among them who are citizens are certainly a very large and growing addition to American religious life and as strong supporters on social issues, whose numbers will be hard to account for until people start polling them correctly.

The conclusion of all these comments is that, as the secular and liberal religious groups in America are disappearing because their people have no interest in having families and raising children, which would get in the way of their personal pursuits. So their numbers are rapidly dwindling. The conservative groups are growing rapidly in number, and will be more willing to work with us if we take the time to understand their backgrounds and growth patterns. Anyone who does not see that the conservative Christian character of the United States in the future is misreading the tea-leaves. I would suggest that California’s secular pluralistic society is at its maximum reach right now Some suggestions to get closer to the conservatives:

(1) move in the direction of conservative Christianity, as the apostles and prophets have been doing steadily for the last 25 years; it will help our growth in the United States and also in our exploding missionary work in the “charismatic” south;

(2) recognize that many of them are Charismatic, and learn to enjoy their wonderful lively services, and consider emphasizing charismatic aspects of our own faith (the Latter-day Saints were actually the first charismatics at the time of the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, so they preceeded the start of the movement among blacks in Los Angeles in 1900);

(3) To improve our ability to relate with the Hispanic varieties, I suggest that we not jump on the anti-immigration bandwagon that some other social conservatives advocate. Since a large percentage of our non-hispanic Europeans in the U.S. are secular, with low birth rates, it turns out that we need the immigrants to pay into social security and to keep our overall birthrate at above replacement level of 2.1 children per couple. This will also help in our own LDS church’s growth in the United States, since our growth among non-hispanic Europeans is going down, and our growth among new Spanish speaking immigrants is very substantial.

Love and thanks,

Steve St.Clair
Pollsters wonder why Proposition 8 defied expectations
By Matt O’BrienContra Costa Times
Article Launched: 11/05/2008 08:53:16 PM PST

Some pollsters say it was previously undecided Catholics, jolted from their uncertainty by a Sunday sermon, who made the decisive tilt toward eliminating same-sex marriage in California.

Others think that African-Americans and Latinos, voting in overwhelming numbers on Tuesday both to elect Barack Obama and pass Proposition 8, made a crucial difference.

Still others say that despite months of polling that led many to believe Prop. 8 was expected to fail, a huge bloc of Californians had always shown themselves to be internally conflicted, and therefore unpredictable, on whether gays and lesbians should be able to marry.

“The bottom line is the public, the voters, are very closely divided on same-sex marriage today,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. “And when all was said and done, you just have to say the ‘yes’ side was just a little bit more persuasive than the ‘no’ side.”

Polls by Baldassare’s institute and other groups had indicated voter opinion weighted against Prop. 8, and so the measure’s victory Tuesday left many experts scratching their heads.

Some had predicted that Obama’s wide popularity in California, and his few public statements against Prop. 8, would work in favor of same-sex marriage supporters. Instead, the measure’s proponents used Obama to their advantage, sending thousands of Bay Area residents a mailer that prominently featured the candidate and a quartet of local African-American pastors expressing their opposition to same-sex marriage.

In mid-October phone interviews, 52 percent of likely voters told the Public Policy Institute that they would vote no on Prop. 8 if the election were held that day. Only 44 percent said they would vote yes, and 4 percent said they did not know how they would vote.

But when asked a slightly different question — “Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to be legally married?” — the same likely voters reversed their opinions. Forty-nine percent opposed allowing same-sex marriages, 47 percent favored allowing them and 4 percent did not know.

That contradiction, in which a slight change of semantics swayed voters from one conviction to another, seemed to be at the heart of California’s most expensive and emotionally-charged election this year. Once they finally weighed in, nearly 5.4 million voters, or 52.5 percent, voted in favor of Prop. 8 and nearly 4.9 million, or 47.5 percent, voted against it.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, another group that had shown the measure losing, said the polls narrowed in recent weeks, but also may have been fooled by a last-minute switch of opinion by Catholic voters, who represent about 30 percent of the state’s electorate.

“This is the same thing that happened in 2000,” said DiCamillo, speaking of the last statewide initiative to ban same-sex marriage. “The Catholics seem to have moved to the ‘yes’ side in the final weekend.”

DiCamillo bases his hunch on exit polls, number-crunching and personal experience. In 2000, he attended his family’s Catholic Church the weekend before the election and heard his priest implore parishioners to vote for a proposition that prohibited California from recognizing same-sex marriages.

“The Catholics just don’t move until the very end, until they’re exhorted to do so,” he said.

The Rev. Mark Wiesner, spokesman for the Oakland Catholic Diocese, said there was no directive to have priests throughout the East Bay church network express their support of Prop. 8 last weekend. Anything that happened would have been at the discretion of the local pastor, he said.

But DiCamillo said he believes that Sunday was “the big crescendo of the Yes campaign,” and a changing Catholic electorate became a defining reason for the discrepancy between poll results and the actual vote. As of last week, 44 percent of Catholic voters interviewed by the Field Poll said they were supporting Prop. 8, and 48 percent said no. He said that according to exit polls conducted Tuesday, 64 percent of Catholics voted for Prop. 8 and 36 percent did not.

Exit polls from network television stations also revealed a wealth of other data that could have observers, and especially opponents of Prop. 8, looking back on the vote for a long time. A CNN poll said that 70 percent of African-American voters supported the measure, compared with 53 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of whites and Asians. But DiCamillo said there was not yet enough information to jump to too many conclusions, pointing out that African-Americans represent only about 6 percent of California voters.

“That’s not a very big sample upon which to make broad conclusions or estimates,” he said. With big margins of error, he said “you’re just throwing darts at the board” until more conclusive studies happen in the coming days and weeks.

Reach Matt O’Brien at 925-977-8463 or mattobrien@bayareanewsgroup.com.


1 Comment

Filed under Immigration, Proposition 8

One response to “2008: Pollsters wonder why Proposition 8 defied expectations / Contra Costa Times

  1. Anonymous

    Speaking of charismatics, historian Dave MacPherson’s 300-page work “The Rapture Plot” (which is in the BYU Library and other libraries) documents that charismatic gifts (tongues etc.) were exhibited publicly as early as 1831 in Edward Irving’s church in London, England and even in 1830 by prophetess Margaret Macdonald and her friends in Port Glasgow, Scotland. Macdonald, BTW, was the originator of the “pre-tribulation rapture” view promoted today by Lindsey, LaHaye and many other evangelicals (Google “Pretrib Rapture Diehards, “X-Raying Margaret,” and “Scholars Weigh My Research”). For a while Prophet Smith was influenced slightly by this escapist view because of early plural wives who had been followers of Irving in Britain (see references to Irvingism in “History of the Church”), but he soon “saw through it” and continued with his original “one-stage” Second Coming doctrine which has always been the Church’s standard view. Kathleen

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