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How They Won It

Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner sheds light on the victory of marriage equality supporters at the ballot box in all four states. A big change from all of the campaigns of the past: The ads.

Geidner writes, “Among the key changes were a shift away from talk of ‘rights’ to a
focus on committed relationships; a decision to address ‘values’ directly as being learned at home; and an attempt to give voters ‘permission’ to change their minds, according to elements of the
research shared with BuzzFeed.

“The research was ‘instrumental in
helping us figure out our path,’ said Zach Silk, who served as the
campaign manager to approve Washington’s Referendum 74.

“The
research was sponsored by Third Way — a centrist Democratic think tank —
that conducted an extended round of surveys beginning in September 2010 ‘aimed at answering a single question: How do we most effectively
persuade people in the middle to support relationship recognition for
gay and lesbian couples, including marriage?'”

As Geidner points out, the messaging was not only better and more sophisticated, but it was also quicker in response. So when opponents unveiled a new variation on ad spots sounding the alarm about kids being taught about same-sex relationships in schools, supporters were at the ready. Past campaigns — 32 of them — have often ended with last-minute voters deciding against marriage equality, following a blitz of ads from opponents. Not so this time. It also helped that supporters had more money to spend than groups like the National Organization for Marriage and even the Catholic Church.

A sample of one of the ads that capitalized on the research:

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