Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falsifying reality to prove their point: NOM and gay marriage.

The Right-wing Christian Post claims that a new poll shows that "57 percent of New York voters oppose gay marriage." This new poll was released to convince Republicans to continue stalling the vote on marriage equality.

In paragraph three we read that 57% want only heterosexual marriage, while 32% support equality, and 11% don't know what they believe. It takes another couple paragraphs before they tell you that the "poll was commissioned by National Organization for (sic) Marriage." This is the secretive, highly funded anti-gay group run by Maggie Gallagher. The group is enmeshed with numerous state agencies around the country as they are the only political campaign in the country that illegally hides the donors from public scrutiny.

But, earlier this year the New York Daily News reported a Quinnipiac University poll found that 56% of voters supported marriage equality. Earlier this month the same poll was conducted again and found support had edged up slightly to 58%. This is slightly higher than the national average. Gallup, in May, found that 53% of all Americans support marriage equality. CNN, in April, found 51% support it. An ABC/Washington Post poll March also found 53% support.

So, why is it when respected, professional polling outfits ask about marriage equality they get a much higher ratio of support, than when NOM commissions a right-wing, Republican outfit to do it for them?

One key variable is who you poll? If you conduct a bogus poll you will make sure you poll people most likely to take your own position, while avoiding demographics that take the opposite view. That is precisely the dishonest polling strategy used by NOM here. Their own polling numbers prove it.

The clearest indicator of support for equality of rights for gay couples is age. Old people are against it, young people are for it. The younger a person is, the more likely it is that they support equality. In New York, according to 2010 census data, individuals between the ages of 18 and 39, comprise around 34.1% of the population. In the NOM "poll" only 7% of those surveyed were under the age of 40. That is quite astounding. For every five people in this age group that should have been surveyed, they managed to survey only one.

Of course, if they intentionally skewed their survey away from young voters, that means they would disproportionately survey older voters. According to NOM's own data that is precisely what they did. They say that 15% of the people they surveyed were 40-49. That is actually pretty close to this age group's representation in the general New York population, 14.7%. NOM skews the results  by over surveying people over the age of 50.

The overwhelming majority of people surveyed in the NOM "poll," 69% of them, were over the age of 50. And 38% were over the age of 60. Less than one-third of all New Yorkers are over the age of 50, 32.6% according to the census. Yet in the NOM survey, this age group, instead of making up their representative 32.6% of people polled, was the vast majority of people polled, or 69% of them.

Where NOM counted only one person under the age of 40, for every five they ought to have surveyed, they surveyed old people at more than twice the numbers required to get a representative sampling.

If NOM claimed their poll showed that most old New Yorkers were opposed to marriage equality, it would be a legitimate claim. But what Christian Post and other Christian websites are peddling is blatantly dishonest.

Every poll that I know of has shown that people over the age of 50 are most likely to oppose marriage equality. Honest polls try to weight their responses so they get proportionate representation regarding race, gender and ages. There are strong correlations to positions on issues and where people fall in those general groupings.  For instance; Women tend to be more supportive of marriage rights than are men; younger individuals are much more supportive than older. NOM got their numbers by weighting the sampling toward people who were most likely to support their view instead.

They did this a second way as well. The less religious are more supportive of marriage equality than are the more religious. But NOM managed to survey a group where 43% of them went to church four times or more per month. This is above the national average for church attendance, according to surveys done by Gallup. So are New Yorkers much more religious than Americans in general, as the NOM survey suggests? No! Gallup found, "Church attendance is below average in California, New York and Florida...." Gallup says that the percentage of New Yorkers who go to church "weekly" or "almost weekly" is 33%. NOM had a survey with 43% going weekly or more than weekly. You almost get the impression that they did the survey at the church doorstep.

Let's look at some other ways NOM cheated on their poll. According to Gallup, 30.6% of all voters in New York describe themselves as conservatives. According to the NOM survey 52% of the people  they surveyed were conservatives in economic terms, and 40% described themselves as conservative on social issues. By either definition NOM over-surveyed conservatives.

It should be clear that NOM got the numbers they did because they conducted a dishonest poll. They sought out old people in disproportionate numbers to their representation in the general public. They surveyed people who were, on average, much more religious than the typical New Yorker. And they disproportionately surveyed conservatives. Here is how a honest headline from NOM would read: "Poll finds that old, religious conservatives oppose marriage equality."

That wouldn't get much attention; everyone already knows that. Instead, NOM, and their friends in the Christian Right, tout the survey as representative of New York as a whole, which is, to put it mildly, extremely dishonest. I fear that the commandment, "thou shalt not lie," is not taken very seriously in the Christian Right, at least when it comes to issues like this.

Note: The original source used for New York age demographics said "New York Population" in one place and New York City elsewhere. It appears to be for New York City, and while the numbers are slightly different, this doesn't change the critique. However, for the sake of accuracy, after all we aren't NOM, I have corrected the numbers using other Census data that is quite clearly for the State of New York.


  1. Quinnipiac University poll found that 56% of voters supported marriage equality is BS, it the definition of marriage that is disputed marriage is between a man and a woman, not same sex unions. Give the same benefits just don't call it a "Marriage"

  2. Other than playing semantics what is your evidence that that poll is bogus. We proved the NOM poll was bogus, but I see no proof from you that the Quinnipiac poll, along with numerous others now, is bogus. Is it merely because you disagree with the results that you proclaim it bogus?

    Also do you think the word "marriage" is magic? How does using the word make a difference to you? If the rights will be just the same then it is marriage in law. This seems to be some sort of voodoo argument, that using the "wrong" word will create some sort of disaster. Can anyone start a religion and call it a church? Should the state ban people from using words and give those words exclusively to others. This isn't a trademark here so what is it? Where do you get the right to determine what words other people may, or may not, use?