The National Organization for Marriage is boasting today about a new poll that it claims supports its case against marriage equality in Rhode Island, but the organization could not be more wrong. NOM’s big claim from the results is that a majority of voters —74 percent, then 78 percent after a push question — want to vote on the question of same-sex marriage. Not only did it take an incredible amount of distortion to arrive at that number, it’s what NOM doesn’t mention about the poll that is most incriminating.
Even with all the tactics employed to get responses that support NOM’s cause, the poll still found that nearly a third of voters (31 percent) believe that Rhode Island lawmakers should consider making same-sex marriage legal “while there is an economic crisis in our state,” as opposed to the proposed alternative of “the economic crisis [should] be dealt with first.” Obviously, the question presents a false dichotomy because approving same-sex marriage does nothing to interfere with fixing the economy. Indeed, marriage equality would support Rhode Island’s economy with an estimated $1.2 million in spending over the first three years the law is in effect. NOM’s best attempts at distortion simply cannot convince Rhode Island voters.
Here are some of the other tactics the poll employed to get skewed results for NOM:
1. The poll didn’t ask whether voters support same-sex marriage. In a poll that is almost entirely questions about same-sex marriage, it never actually asked respondents specifically how they feel about the issue itself. At best, it found that 48 percent are “liberal when thinking about social issues.” The best way to avoid getting an undesired answer is not to ask the question.
2.The poll sample was incredibly low. This poll sampled only 401 voters in Rhode Island. Obviously Rhode Island is a small state and a lower sample can be used, but recent polls in Rhode Island have surveyed 614 and 501, still significantly bigger samples. Both of those polls found majorities support marriage equality.
3. The poll grossly over-sampled older voters. About 42 percent of Rhode Island’s population is over the age of 45, but 71 percent of poll respondents were over the age of 50. National and statewide polls have consistently shown that younger people are more likely to support marriage equality, so the over-sampling seems quite intentional.
4. The polling company is extremely conservative and has a poor track record. As other LGBT blogs have pointed out, NOM’s go-to push-poller QEV Analytics has a number of conservative ties, including the Catholic Church and the Republican Party. NOM had QEV do a similar poll in the lead-up to New York’s marriage equality vote and, using similar distortions, it found 57 percent opposed to the proposed same-sex marriage bill when every other poll showed similar size majorities supporting equality. QEV President Steve Wagner said in 1996, “Polling done for the purposes of publicizing results is meaningless, and I think the media are guilty of spending too much time on polls… People don’t vote based on polls.” Apparently NOM didn’t get that memo.
NOM is quite desperate to make a case against equality in Rhode Island, but apparently the only way to do that is to ignore reality.