Where is the “coherence” in some of these puzzling voter choices?

ll this week, I’ve been asking you to help me figure out some post-election puzzles. Monday, I asked you about new styles of voter mapping; Tuesday, about same-sex marriage bans; Wednesday, about failures of abortion initiatives.
    TODAY, let’s look at the intriguing case of my own home state: Wolverine voters said yes to stem cell research and medical use of marijuana—but they said no to same-sex marriage two years ago. What do you make of these decisions?
    Here’s what happened: The Stem Cell Initiative (also called CureMichigan), Proposal 2 on the ballot, was approved by 53% of the vote. The state’s constitution now will be amended to allow researchers to use embryos from fertility clinics that would have been discarded. Scientists can create embryonic cell cultures. And, the government can fund the research.
    The Coalition for Compassionate Care Initiative, Proposal 1 on the ballot, was approved by 63% of the vote. Now, doctors can prescribe the use of marijuana for seriously ill patients. Patients and their caregivers can cultivate their own marijuana. Uses of marijuana for other purposes are still prohibited.
    In 2004, however, Michigan voters strongly supported a ban on same-sex marriage. Our state’s constitution now includes the statement, “The union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”

    Researchers who study values often talk about “coherence”—the consistency of attitudes about controversial issues. Coherence would be the consistent approval of abortion, medical use of marijuana, stem cell research, and same-sex marriage. Or, it could be the consistent disapproval of all these. The idea is that attitudes on a set of issues hang together.
    Michiganders were consistent on Election Day when they approved stem cell research and medical use of marijuana. But their approval of these ballot measures in 2008 is inconsistent with the 2006 ban on same-sex marriage.
    Californians were inconsistent on Election Day when they approved a ban on same-sex marriage (see Tuesday’s post) but rejected “Sarah’s Law”—a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited abortion for minors without parental notification (see Wednesday’s post).

It seems that Americans’ attitudes are liberalizing across a wide front—except for same-sex marriage.
    What do you make of these patterns? Do you think Michigan voters and California voters are inconsistent in their attitudes?
    Or, does it all make sense?

    Please, tell us what you think! C
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