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Maine Gay Marriage Vote Highlights Demographic Differences
11/08/2012   Reported By: Jay Field

Maine's voters made history Tuesday by legalizing gay marriage at the ballot box. The successful campaign came just three years after voters repealed the same-sex marriage law passed by the state Legislature. Jay Field takes a closer look at the election returns to figure out what made the difference this time.

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It doesn't happen every election cycle. But 2012 was one of those years when Maine's election results resonated across the country. That's due, in large part, to the historic passage of same-sex marriage.

Patrick Murphy heads Pan Atlantic SMS Group, a Potland-based polling and market research company. "Pro same-sex marriage forces in the state - I think they did a masterful job at turning the vote out," Murphy says.

On Tuesday, the initiative passed 53 to 47 percent. That was also the result three years ago, when Maine voters repealed a state law allowing same-sex marriage. In that election, just four counties voted in favor of gay marriage. This time, seven counties voted yes. And in four of them - Hancock, Knox, Cumberland and York Counties - the margins of victory were all substantially larger.

Murphy says that's not just due to superior get-out-the-vote efforts. "I just think, in general, the trend for acceptance of gay marriage has just been very, very fast. In fact, much faster than we've seen on some other public policy issues of this nature in the country in the last 50 years," Murphy says.

This trend, however, did not reach into areas in Maine that, although heavily Democratic, are also heavily Catholic. Emily Shaw has been analyzing election returns. She's an assistant professor of political science at Thomas College in Waterville.

"The Lewiston-Auburn area, although it is heavily Democratic - one of the most Democratic areas in the state - opposes, has opposed same-sex marriage much more than other Democratic areas," Shaw says.

Tuesday's results showed that opposition to gay marriage also continues to be quite strong in many of Maine's more rural counties. Patrick Murphy says a lot of those counties are in the state's 2nd Congressional District.

"There's no dount that the 2nd Distict is much more conservative on these social issues," Murphy says. "I mean, I think one has to consider the demographics. There's a real demographic difference in southern Maine - and by southern Maine I'm referring in particular to the two large counties of Cumberland and York - half f these folks, myself included, weren't born in Maine. A lot of them have come from, probably, quite liberal eastern states - New York, Massachusetts."

Throughout the year, the Yes on 1 campaign made a concerted effort to reach people in Maine's more rural areas, but still ended up losing a lot of these counties. But David Farmer, chief spokesman with the campaign, says the effort was still a great success.

"Counties don't vote, people vote," Farmer says. And this was never a competition to win counties. This was a competition to collect the most votes. And we saw that through our grassroots efforts that we gained supporters in almost every town, in almost every communtity in the state."

And that, Farmer says, was as responsible for same-sex marriage passing as was the overwhelming support down south.



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