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Politico poll showing “plurality support” for gay marriage also shows majority opposition

Politico poll showing “plurality support” for gay marriage also shows majority opposition

Politico creates the narrative it wants from unhelpful numbers

As Professor Jacobson pointed out the other day, there is an effort already underway to game the refs at the Supreme Court, similar to in the Obamacare case, by creating a media and political narrative that the Court’s legitimacy would be threatened if it were on the “wrong side of history” on gay marriage.

That “gaming the ref” effort was seen the other day at Politico.

Politico’s 9 December headline blared, “Poll: Plurality Support Gay Marriage” which to the undiscerning reader sounds awfully like most people are in favor.

The poll was picked up in many places.  The ever excitable writers at Slate saw Politco’s story and quickly ran their own entry with an almost word-for-word headline.

But using their own numbers, Politico could have equally, and perhaps more honestly have written, “Majority Against Gay Marriage“.  Or they could have even said “Nation Split on Gay Marriage.”  All would have been correct given the actual poll results.

The poll asked which of three views best described a person’s view on gay marriage:

  1. Same sex couples should be able to be legally married;
    Same sex couples should be able to enter into civil unions but not be allowed to get married, OR
    Same sex couples should not be allowed to have any type of legal union?

Only 40%—a minority—agreed with legal marriage.  But 30% said civil unions without marriage was best, and 24% said no marriage and no civil union.  That makes 54%—a majority—against marriage.

So while is strictly true that a plurality do support gay marriage when gay marriage is put as one choice of three questions,  it is also true, and more faithful to the data, to say a majority is against it.  

Since this bit of mathematics is trivial, even a journalist could have done it, and probably did.  That means the decision to write the headline was either deliberate, chosen to align with the site’s prejudices, or the result of blind enthusiasm for the subject.

Smart money is on the former.  This is because an interesting tidbit revealed 82% said “No” or “No/Strongly” to “Have your views on same sex marriage or gay marriage changed over the past few years?”  And just three days later in a poll-informed article analyzing the Supreme Court’s upcoming review of two gay marriage cases, Politico wrote, “gay-rights backers say Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage is broadly consistent with where a majority of Americans is headed on the issue…” 

But their own poll showed the overwhelming majority of Americans aren’t headed anywhere.  Indeed, in Slate’s coverage of the poll, they said, “This latest poll shows support for gay marriage at a lower level than other recent surveys.”  That means either this poll’s sample is constructed differently than other polls (though a glance through it shows a fairly even split of the electorate), or support is actually decreasing, perhaps because of the increased coverage of gay marriage. 

William M. Briggs, the Statistician to the Stars!, is a sometime Professor of Statistics at Cornell and a most-times consultant. For what an explanation of what polling is, click here.


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Nice analysis of the media’s sneaky ways.

The media is being about as honest as John Edwards when he paid that sickening, insincere compliment to Cheney in their debate about Cheney’s relationship with his “lesbian daughter.”

Carroll D. Wright, a prominent statistician employed by the U.S. government, in 1899:

The old saying is that “figures will not lie,” but a new saying is “liars will figure.” It is our duty, as practical statisticians, to prevent the liar from figuring; in other words, to prevent him from perverting the truth, in the interest of some theory he wishes to establish.

Thank you Prof. Briggs. Job well done!

As I have commented numerous times before, the misnomer of “Gay Marriage” is the logical equivalent of talking about “Square circles.” It’s all in the definition of marriage, which for thousands of years has been defined as a social contract of mutual support between a MAN and a WOMAN. No one is denying gay or lesbians the right to marry, they simply choose not to exercise that right based upon their sexual preference. I fall into the 30% category of believing a civil union hould offer the same societal protections in terms of inheritance, powers of attorney etc.. But civil unions will never enjoy the same status of being a foundation for building a civilization as does marriage.

    pthastings in reply to Paul. | December 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Well stated. The left’s premise is sort of, If you love something you should be able to “marry” that something: male, female, sister, brother, dog, cat … whatever. Never mind that you have just perverted the meaning of the word marriage beyond any traditional meaning. But perversion has never been a barrier to anything the Left wants to do. On the contrary, the more perversion the better.

    el polacko in reply to Paul. | December 13, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    ALL legal marriages are ‘civil unions’. marriage licenses are issued by the state, not the vatican and there is no requirement for a religious ceremony in order to be legally married. this marriage/civil union argument in semantic nonsense that’s only invoked as a possible way to perpetuate the second-class status of citizens who are gay.

Any justice who votes in favor of homosexual “marriage” will be on the wrong side of God’s stated instruction for male and female relationships.

Plurality – More than one. So they found two people who support gay marriage.

The thumb, by design, is never far from the scale lest it be seen to come to rest to change the weighing.

If homosexual marriage advocates actually believed what Slate is spinning, they would not be looking to the court to overturn two provisions reflecting the popular will.

since when are the legal rights of our fellow citizens decided by polls or popular votes ?

The premise of this article is so far off it cannot be anything but deliberate. The question asked was of the form “which of these would you like best.” That does not even imply that all of those who selected civil unions are against full marriage; only that it’s not their very first choice.

To find out which of two options people would prefer, you must look at a poll that only offers two options.