AN ANALYSIS OF STATE REFERENDA
Richard E. Matland
Loyola University Chicago
Paper presented to the University of Wisconsin, Department of Political Science American Politics Workshop, March 21, 2011
Between 1998 and 2009 thirty-four states held referenda on prohibiting or permitting same-sex marriages. All but one resulted in prohibition. The outlier was Arizona, which in 2006 narrowly defeated Proposition 107 prohibiting same sex marriage (48%-52%). Two years later, however, Arizonans switched and voted 56% to 44% to prohibit same-sex marriages. All told, voters directly approved constitutional prohibitions in thirty-one states, of which twelve were citizen-initiated referenda and nineteen referenda were authorized by state legislatures. This paper presents an analysis of voting outcomes on these statewide referendums across the 34 states that have had votes during this time. Our units of analysis are the 2,344 counties in thirty different states where referenda voting occurred. We analyze an array of socio-economic, political, and institutional variables to explain the pattern of opposition to same-sex marriage. This paper builds on existing research of political scientists and sociologists by (1) integrating the salient variables from previous studies, (2) relying on the universe of referenda rather than a subset, (3) adding state-level variables and (4) including “structural” variables associated with the referendum process. In sum, we believe our study is the most comprehensive analysis of this research question to date. We also believe several of the new variables we include are significant contributions as they focus on the pivotal impact of voter “turnout” in explaining the level of opposition to same-sex marriage in the American states and the impact that legislative language has on the outcomes we evaluate. Literature Review and...