Spinning the data on same-sex marriage
The Alliance Defense Fund grabbed headlines this week by releasing a poll (conducted by Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies) finding that 62% of Americans agreed (and 53% strongly agreed) with the statement “I believe marriage should be defined ONLY as a union between one man and one woman.” ADF only released this one question, so we’re left to wonder about what other interesting data they turned up.
From what was released though, the poll’s findings seems to contradict recent poll findings on same-sex marriage by Gallup, CNN, ABC News/Washington Post and Public Religion Research Institute. So what gives? Here’s the Family Research Council’s spin:
If New York does redefine marriage, a new poll says it will be doing so against the will of most Americans. Today, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) unveiled the results of a national survey that show marriage isn’t losing ground in the states–it’s gaining it. Public Opinion Strategies (POS), which routinely does polling for Fortune 100 companies, members of Congress, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio, surveyed more than 1,500 adults in May. And it found that 62% of Americans agreed with the statement, “I believe marriage should be defined only as the union of one man and one woman.” What’s more, 53% strongly agreed. Only 35% disagreed. That’s a far cry from what the media would have us believe. In recent surveys, the press seems intent on creating the illusion that there’s momentum for same-sex “marriage.” But unlike other polling, which has to twist questions to elicit a liberal response, ADF’s survey was a straight-forward, comprehensive look at the attitudes toward marriage today. [emphasis in original]
I suppose FRC should get a little credit for acknowledging that the ADF poll is an outlier. But the questions FRC sees as liberally biased don’t exactly match that description. A few examples:
In May, Public Religion Research Institute asked if respondents favored or opposed “allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry.” 51 percent were in favor.
Also In May, Gallup asked “Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?” 53 percent said same-sex marriages ought to be recognized.
In April, CNN asked “Do you think marriages between gay and lesbian couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?” 51 percent said they should be recognized.
In March, ABC News/Washington Post asked “Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?” 53 percent said it should be legal.
A key difference is that these polls focused on legality rather than the “definition” of marriage. Given that the political debate surrounding same-sex marriage pertains to legislation rather than the contents of the dictionary, it’s hard to see the relevance of ADF’s data. It certainly is interesting, but it’s not even close to a refutation of the overwhelming body of current nonpartisan opinion research pointing to majority support for legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Also, ADF described their finding as “part of a broad and comprehensive effort examining American attitudes toward marriage.” I wonder, did this broad and comprehensive effort focus solely on the “definition” and avoid the legal question altogether? If they did investigate opinions on legality, did they find results ADF wants to keep hidden? If they ignored the question of legal recognition, it seems like a pretty obvious omission.