New Poll Projects R-71 as Barely Passing; Supporters Call for Help

Despite an endorsement list that would seemingly take weeks to read, and opponents who argue against gay partnerships by accusing them of causing manufacturing delays at Boeing, it looks like Referendum 71 faces a tight battle this fall. (In case you haven't been paying attention, R-71 is a referendum on the legislature's domestic partnership law, which extends to gay and lesbian couples (and hetero domestic partners over 62) the rights of marriage under Washington law.)

The coalition Approve R-71 announced that a poll it commissioned (via the firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner) found that only 51% of likely voters intend to vote for the measure, while 44% intend to vote against it, and 5% are undecided. The group isn't releasing demographic breakdowns yet, says spokesperson Josh Friedes.

While there have been a lot of worries about wrong-way voters (if you support the domestic partnership law, you probably opposed having R-71 on the ballot, but you'll want to vote "Approve" to retain the law), Friedes says the relative closeness of the race is due more to low turnout in off-year elections, where those who do turn out tend to be more conservative. (By contrast, a 2008 Washington Poll (pdf) that didn't look at likelihood of voting found that 66% of Washington voters support full domestic partnership rights for gays and lesbians.)

"Everybody needs to mail in their ballots and talk to their friends and family about the importance of Referendum 71, and also about the problem of off-year elections. Our biggest concern is that people will look around at their friends and family and think, 'Everyone I know believes that all families deserve basic protection; I don't even need to vote.'"

Friedes said that the campaign needs help, especially in light of the short campaign, with the measure not being confirmed for the ballot until early September, and ballots going out in mid-October. "We need more phone bankers, more money." And, noting that among the rights on the line is the right to take leave from work to care for a critically ill partner, he added, "It's a very serious situation."

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