Interesting Poll Results
One hardly needs to be a far-right-winger to observe that the Providence Journal has been a local booster of the same-sex marriage cause, so it’s not but so interesting to compare for bias the front-page coverage of the Victor Profughi poll, commissioned by the National Organization for Marriage Rhode Island, finding more opposed than supportive, with the front-page coverage of Marion Orr’s Brown poll finding conflicting results in May. The lead for the latter:
Nearly two of every three people surveyed in the Brown University poll favored the concept, and the results spotlight a generational divide
For the former:
But some question the pollster’s methodology and challenge the results, which run counter to a previous survey’s findings.
The different results are likely explained largely by the ages of the respondents. Random evening calls to registered voters netted Profughi only 31.3% under the age of fifty. Orr hasn’t released comparable information from his poll, although like the Providence Journal, I’ve got a request in.
Left-wing Brown professor and congressional candidate Jennifer Lawless complains that Profughi used the word “personally,” although she doesn’t explain why seeing the issue in personal terms would increase opposition to same-sex marriage. One could just as easily argue that Orr’s “Would you support or oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married” might make it sound as if “opposition” means actively speaking out against it, and the vast majority of Rhode Islanders simply don’t see the issue as that important.
More pointed criticism has been directed at a new question from Profughi:
Thinking about this issue further, some people say that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, but they do not have the right to redefine marriage for all of society. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with that statement?
Fifty-seven percent agreed, and 34% disagreed, but the problem with relying on this question to taint the other results is that the question was second to last. All of the other substantive questions had been asked and answered before this supposed “push poll” question entered the conversation, with the exception being the final question about support for teaching school children about gay marriage, which 66% opposed and 25% supported.
Putting aside the political wrangling over language and demographics, one thing that emerges from both surveys is that support for same-sex marriage decreases as the respondent considers it. Profughi recorded 36% support for same-sex marriage and 43% opposition, but after an interposing question about whether voters should “have the opportunity to decide” about same-sex marriage, he recorded 52% support for a “proposal” declaring that “only marriage between a man and a woman will be valid or recognized in Rhode Island,” with 38% opposition. (The differences entailed folks coming off the “don’t know/undecided” bench.) Similarly, Orr recorded 60% support for SSM and 31% opposition, but after a question about civil unions, only 55% supported marriage.
The reality of the issue is that most people don’t want to have to be in the position of talking about it. When it comes up, their initial response is more favorable, as if to make the topic go away, but when other options are presented or other angles considered, underlying concerns begin to emerge.