Statistics and Reasoning
At Rhody’s suggestion in the comments to my post on the Iowa same-sex marriage decision, I took a look at Nate Silver’s statistical assessment of the likelihood that Iowans will revoke the decision via constitutional amendment:
I looked at the 30 instances in which a state has attempted to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage by voter initiative. The list includes Arizona twice, which voted on different versions of such an amendment in 2006 and 2008, and excludes Hawaii, which voted to permit the legislature to ban gay marriage but did not actually alter the state’s constitution. I then built a regression model that looked at a series of political and demographic variables in each of these states and attempted to predict the percentage of the vote that the marriage ban would receive. …
So what does this mean for Iowa? The state has roughly average levels of religiosity, including a fair number of white evangelicals, and the model predicts that if Iowans voted on a marriage ban today, it would pass with 56.0 percent of the vote. By 2012, however, the model projects a toss-up: 50.4 percent of Iowans voting to approve the ban, and 49.6 percent opposed. In 2013 and all subsequent years, the model thinks the marriage ban would fail.
The problem is that models don’t think; they take what we put in. So, on one hand, the reality of same-sex marriages coming and going may soften Iowans’ views. On the other hand, the Supreme Court of Iowa has just proven that statutory language is insufficient. People rightly seek the least extreme (and least difficult) method of accomplishing their goals, and if one’s goal is to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, nothing within reach of the judiciary is now adequate.
To we who’ve been arguing this topic for years, that reality has been clear from the start, but it’s been a core strategy of homosexual advocates (and progressives more generally) to limit expectations about the next step. Civil unions would never lead to same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts would never be exported to other states. And so on.
I wouldn’t presume to make predictions, but it’s going to be more difficult for SSM rhetoricians to insist that leveraging state (and federal) constitutions is overkill.