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Why Is The Media Blaming Black Voters for North Carolina's Anti-Gay Amendment?


Claimed African-Americans voted 2-1 in favor of the North Carolina amendment, despite no exit polling being done.

Since the success of North Carolina's Amendment One, which bans gay marriage in the state, there have been a number of different phenomena blamed for the success of the law. Buzzfeed, for instance, points out a correlation which supposedly shows that the least educated areas of North Carolina went most strongly for the law.

Yet one particular claim by the mainstream DC news outlet Politico has been inspiring some debate. And it comes from a story entitled, "Gay marriage: Black voters remain divided." Here's the quote that's been getting attention:

African-Americans voted 2-1 in favor of the North Carolina amendment banning gay marriage Tuesday, but the White House is betting that black voters there and beyond will stick with the president, despite broad resistance to legalization.

If true, that 2-1 figure would suggest something troubling for the White House - that the same voters that are most inclined to support President Obama for a second term are the ones most likely to be alienated from his announcement yesterday that he now supports gay marriage.

The problem is that no one knows where exactly that figure comes from. Moe Lane at RedState led the charge on this particular problem, in a blog post that acidly criticizes the author of the article for not citing sources:

There’s no backup for that at all in the article. The question is of some interest – African-American opposition to California’s same-sex marriage laws gave social conservatives a completely unexpected victory on 2008′s Election Night – but if there are actual exit polls publicly available then I have yet to see them. For that matter, ABC Newsreported today (May 10, 2012) that there was no exit polling in North Carolina for Amendment One. At all.

NO exit polling? That does sound suspicious. And in point of fact, Mediaite is backing up Lane's criticism, claiming that the Politico story is irresponsibly pushing a media meme that doesn't actually have factual support:

Scapegoating of black voters for the passage of anti-marriage laws like California’s Proposition 8 or North Carolina’s Amendment 1 is not a new thing. However, the reality is that while polling among black voters on the issue shows higher-than-average opposition to gay marriage (47% to 54% in one recent poll), it’s not nearly enough to swing any of these measures from failure to passage. In fact, being a Republican or a graduate of the 8th grade are far more reliable predictors of marriage equality opposition.

But there has also been a clear effort to exaggerate black opposition to same-sex marriage. When California’s Proposition 8 passed during the 2008 election, it was widely reported that 70% of black people voted for it, but a later study concluded that the number was really about 58%. If black people had voted exactly the same as everyone else, Prop 8 would still have passed.[...]

This narrative is made more attractive by anti-gay mothership NOM’s well-publicized efforts to use marriage equality as a wedge among black voters, but what little actual data that’s used in the Politico report shows opposition to gay marriage softening among black people.

So the meme looks fake, which raises the question of why Politico would push an item like this in the first place. Racism in the media, or just an outsized love of conflict? Or is there data that no one has shown? We hope Politico will release the source of their number and clear this up.

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