LEWISTON — Television ads about gay marriage made the difference in the yes side winning on Question 1 in Tuesday's election, political experts said Wednesday.
A "yes" vote favored repealing Maine's law allowing same-sex couples to marry.
The "No on 1" campaign had effective ads, but many were soft right to the end, which helped their opponents, pundits said.
"The 'Yes on 1' entire strategy seemed to be based on building fear of the unknown," such as saying homosexuality would be taught in schools, said Colby College political science professor Sandy Maisel.
"It made the outcome," Maisel said. "This was a classic case of American politics and hope versus fear. And fear won." The fear had nothing to do with the facts, he said, but the ads' strategy was to get people to the polls. "That's what they did."
Bowdoin College government professor Christian Potholm said the "No on 1" campaign had "by far" the best ads until two weeks ago.
In the past two weeks, the "no" side should have made people afraid of what would happen if they voted yes, Potholm said. The campaign instead showed warm and fuzzy footage of Maine families, ads that had already been seen. Dire warnings were missing.
The "Yes on 1" ads told voters they didn't have to feel bad about themselves if they voted yes, Potholm said. "You could like gays, but you don't have to let them get married. That made it easy for people to vote yes."
A prominent national blog, Queerty, on Wednesday credited the "No on 1" campaign with working tirelessly but said it had a "weak" advertising campaign.
One television ad after another "played nice," showing normalized families that didn't deserve to be discriminated against, rather than painting a doomsday scenario of what would happen if Question 1 passed: "Voters will approve discrimination," the blogger wrote.
University of Maine at Farmington political professor James Melcher said both sides played to Maine's independence in different styles. The "no" side ads said: "Why should the state interfere with my right to marry;" the "yes" side warned: "They're going to mess with your kids if this goes through."
However, in the past 10 years television ads have lost some of the hold on voters, said Karl Trautman, chairman of the Social Sciences Department at Central Maine Community College. Voters today also are influenced by online social networking and blogs, he said.
Television ads are part of the mix, "but any campaign that blames defeat or victory on TV ads may be an overstatement," Trautman said. Both sides of Question 1 ran good campaigns, he said. "There weren't a lot of missteps."