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The Socially Conservative State of…California?

California is generally thought of as a very liberal place. The Democratic Party is certainly doing well; Republicans are at an all-time low almost everywhere in the state.

This applies to social positions as well. The stereotype is that Californians are very socially liberal. California is, after all, home to San Francisco and Berkeley — the natural environment of the godless hippie and homosexual. Hollywood is also located in California, and Hollywood's not exactly a bastion of social conservatism.

It may surprise some then to note that in the past four years, Californians have voted against gay marriage, marijuana and the abolition of the death penalty.

These positions were debated in three successive propositions. Each time the socially conservative side won. Here are the numbers:

Proposition What It Proposed Socially Conservative Side Socially Liberal Side
8 No to Gay Marriage 52.2% 47.8%
19 Legalizing Marijuana 53.5% 46.5%
34 Abolishing the Death Penalty 52.0% 48.0%

Each of the propositions had different things going on. Gay marriage was widely expected to win, and it shocked liberals when the people said no. Legal marijuana appeared to have majority support — at first. But as the details of the proposition for legal marijuana came out (it was said to be badly written), its numbers plummeted. On the other hand, few paid attention to Proposition 34. The abolishment of the death penalty was never expected to pass, and it surprised few when it didn't. Yet, the end results are remarkably similar for the different contours that the propositions took.

From the numbers, it looks like there's a socially conservative majority of 52 percent to 53 percent of Californians.

Ironically, the social conservatism displayed here might be a side-effect of the same forces behind the Democratic Party's rise. The growing Hispanic and Asian vote leans strongly Democratic; it's why the Republicans are collapsing in California. At the same time, Hispanics and Asians (especially immigrants) — as Republicans never tire of saying — are often socially conservative. South-Central Los Angeles might give the Democratic candidate 80-90 percent of the vote. That doesn't mean that it will support gay marriage, legalized marijuana or the abolishment of the death penalty.

Go to CA State Page
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