After years of claiming his views on same-sex marriage are “evolving,” President Obama announced in a television news interview yesterday that he now believes homosexual couples should have that right.
And according to The New York Times, most Americans agree with the president: The paper carried a story Wednesday citing nine surveys conducted over the past year, showing that on average 50 percent of the people support same-sex marriage, while 45 percent oppose it.
But a survey’s results depend largely on how the questions are worded.
“The fact that the questions are asked in the way they are, the pollsters know they’re going to get a certain result,” said Greg Scott, director of national media relations at the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). “It’s called acquiescence bias.”
Scott knows about that firsthand: Last year, ADF spent two months conducting 14 focus-group sessions with 1,500 adults across the country, with the help of the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, asking their feelings on same-sex marriage.
“It wasn’t to get the answer we wanted. We specifically targeted people who were on the fence — the mushy middle that could be swayed one way or the other,” Scott said. “The research we did was similar to what a potential presidential candidate does when they’re going to launch a campaign. They want to get the real answers. The question we asked is nearly exactly what people have been asked state to state in 32 states now: Do you support marriage as one man and one woman?”
To that question, 62 percent of the respondents said “yes.” That’s in line with the average by which voters in all 32 states have approved either laws or constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
By contrast, the polls The New York Times cited all use questions that include some version of “allowing” homosexuals to have certain “rights” or making marriage between them “legal.”
“Consistently, when Americans are asked the question about marriage, they give a consistent answer — that marriage is the lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman.,” Scott said.
“When they’re asked a different question — whether someone should be given rights or not — they give a different answer,” he added. Also “if they are called by a person, they are significantly more likely to say, ‘Yes, I support redefining marriage.’ But if it’s a robocall, they’re significantly less likely to support it. So it really is a matter of how you frame the question. Unfortunately, marriage is too important to be defined by rhetorical games, but that’s where we find ourselves in this country. Like the president, many Americans don’t understand the public purpose of marriage.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
See a list of polls on same-sex marriage and read the wording of the questions.
Read “What is Marriage?” by by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan T. Anderson.
Read “Why I’m Optimistic About Natural Marriage,” by Andrew Walker.
Watch a video titled “Why Is Marriage Important?” by John Piper.
Read “Who Needs Marriage?” by the late Chuck Colson.
Read “Marriage in Society: The Generation Clash,” by Matthew Lee Anderson.
Read “What Would Bonhoeffer Do?” by Eric Metaxas.
Watch a debate on same-sex marriage between Dennis Prager and Perez Hilton. (Warning: YouTube video contains objectionable content.)
Read “Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage,” by Matthew J. Franck.
Read “A Marriage in Full,” by Gary A. Anderson.
Read “On Marriage and the Moral Limits of Human Sexuality,” by Metropolitan Jonah.