I suspect you had as many people strongly opposed to the referendum as strongly supporting. Where the referendum was won is in the middle, the less informed, less passionate voter who went to the polls on Election Day without a strong opinion on the issue. Those voters are most susceptible to persuasion at the polls.
In that regard, the pro side, with its army of teachers and other education-types supporting it and working at the polls, had a clear advantage. When there is a large pool of potential voters out there, the side that is best organized is almost always going to be able to best target those undecided voters and swing them. In Pike, it seemed like every polling place was covered by at least one "Yes" volunteer pushing the referendum, often more. I was not aware of a single polling place where there was organized opposition to the referendum.
Another huge factor is the wording of the question. I know some people scoff at the notion that the wording of the Wishard or Pike referendum influenced the result. They instead claim that both sides simply won, or lost, based on how well they supported their respective sides and the wording didn't matter. That's nonsense. Unless all the voters arrived on Election Day fully informed about the referendum issue, which certainly didn't happen, the wording of the questions certainly does matter.
Take the Pike referendum question for example:
"Shall the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, Marion County Indiana, issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance the Tax Neutral New Guion Creek Elementary School Project in order to create equity among our elementary students in the Century by providing our teachers with the tools needed to offer quality education to all of the children in our community, which is estimated to cost not more than $21,475,000 and is estimated to increase the property tax rate for debt service by $0.2375 per $100 of assessed value based on the assumption that the debt service fund tax rate would otherwise be $0.00?"The language in bold wasn't necessary, but rather were phrases intentionally included by the Pike School Board to try to trigger a "yes" response from the less informed voter, those who goes to the polls and is for the first time presented with the issue and asked to make a decision.
The Wishard referendum written by Health and Hospital Corporation was even worse:
Any political scientist who studies polling will tell you the No. 1 bias in a poll is the wording of the question. It's easy to generate different poll results by changing words and placing into the question certain hot button words or phrases. Health & Hospital and the Pike Township School Board knew what they were doing when they constructed the questions the way they did. They were not trying to present the question honestly and objectively to the voters. They were trying to get a result they wanted.
Shall the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana, issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance safe, efficient and functional facilities for the Wishard Hospital project:
1.to allow Wishard to provide access to care for all residents of Marion County, including people who are seniors, poor uninsured or vulnerable regardless of their ability to pay; and
2.to allow Wishard to provide specialized care, including to victims suffering from
traumatic injuries or severe burns; and
3.to allow Wishard to work with colleges and universities including Indiana University School of Medicine, Ivy Tech Community College, and the Purdue School of Pharmacy, to teach future doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals in Indiana?"
Biased referenda language has gotten out of hand. We need elected officials to step forward and insist that the questions be written fairly and objectively and that those wanting the referenda to pass not be allowed to try to insert bias into presenting the question to the public. Ultimately we need the Indiana General Assembly to step in and take the writing of the question away from school boards and other local governmental entities and place the authority to write the question in the hands of some other entity, perhaps the Department of Local Government Finance or possibly delegate the responsibility to the courts. Clearly the current system is not working.