The surprise sweep for marriage equality efforts at the polls in 2012 came after a dramatic shift in the television ads their backers ran — a change that came about after a year-long research effort to crack the code of previously successful ads run by marriage equality opponents that focused on “gay marriage” being taught in schools.

Among the key changes: 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 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?” …

Faith and, particularly in Maryland, black communities were engaged directly. Fund-raising and field operations were systematic and far outpaced past efforts of marriage equality supporters and this year’s efforts by opponents. President Obama and the Democratic Party, along with prominent Republicans and straight sports stars, were speaking out in support of marriage equality. And, it was the fifth federal election held in the country since some of its residents were legally able to marry someone of the same sex.