On a bright cloudless Saturday morning in October, the Yahoo Ask America Van waits for visitors on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. This event is planned to coincide with the Good Energy Festival and the weekly Farmers Market which are also located on the Promenade. This liberal beach community-with a large tourist influx-is the perfect backdrop for some open-minded discussion of hot button political issues.
Up for debate is one of California’s most controversial topics: Gay Marriage.
In front of the van, sits a large white board with the words: Prop 8: Do you think Gay Marriage Should be legalized? Below the board, on either side are two markers-one red and one blue. Participants are told they can have a piece of yummy apple pie if they put a hash mark under a blue “yes” or a red “no.” Next to the white board is a table with two iPads surrounded by privacy screens on which visitors can answer a series of polling questions such as, “Do you think Donald Trump would win the 2012 election?”
The workers are on their fourth leg of this six stop trip. They’ve already visited Chicago, Miami, Arizona and now California. The van will eventually end up in Washington DC.
The idea behind this massive undertaking is to find out what people think through various forms of polling without any judgment.
Jonathan Devries from Chicago, Illinois, heads up this traveling opinion poll. “Midterm elections fall off the radar…” he says. This is a way, he adds, to get people motivated and focus on voter education. So far, the response has been positive.
The Yahoo Answer Van has averaged 450 to 500 participants a day, however, yesterday-when the van was in Hollywood, CA-that number shot up to 800. The rise could have been due, in part, to the most famous of the Answer Van’s interviewees, Superman.
After placing her blue mark on the white board, Sunny Lee, from Los Angeles, explains her position. It is not a question of sides-Republican or Democrat-“you have to go issue by issue.” She believes it is a civil rights issue and nothing more.
After about an hour, the marks on the blue, or yes, side of the Gay Marriage issue were out numbering ten to one. Although in the minority, Lynell Johnson from Los Angeles, grabs the red marker. “It’s not black or white,” she says of her opposition to Gay Marriage. Her main reason for opposing this issue is religious based. If I was a part of a same-sex couple, I would want the same rights as a married couple. Then why the “no” vote? “My church opposes Gay Marriage.” she said. “I would guess that most of those ‘no’ marks are for the same reason as mine.”
As luck would have it, the Yahoo Answer Van is not stuck with the dilemma of waiting for Superman. His opinion has been heard and counted. And for the record, Superman believes the economy is the biggest hot-button issue on next month’s ballot.
Where do you stand on this hot-button issue?