Polling is not an exact science, and an individual poll should only be examined within the trend of other polling. This did not stop the National Organization for Marriage from championing a single poll that had conflicting results about how Americans feel about marriage equality and what they think the Supreme Court should do with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). According to results from the Huffington Post and YouGov, Americans are split 43-45 over whether the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages and 41-45 over whether the Supreme Court should overturn DOMA.
NOM’s Brian Brown claimed this was “the only poll that matters“:
For months and years activists bent on redefining marriage and striking down DOMA have argued that the Supreme Court should issue a sweeping ruling in favor of same-sex marriage because it is inevitable. This poll, and the only poll that matters — the free votes of citizens in over 2/3rds of American states — shows this is not true. The Supreme Court ought to uphold DOMA and uphold Proposition 8 and respect the pro-marriage views of millions of Americans.
Of course, there’s nothing about YouGov’s online opt-in process that makes it “free votes,” nor is there anything to distinguish it from other polling — with one exception. Unlike most phone polls, YouGov’s online polling allows respondents to answer “Not Sure,” which 12 percent did on the question of marriage equality and 14 percent did on the question of the Supreme Court’s action on DOMA. Brown neglects to mention this significant contingent of unsure respondents.
Polling over the past three years has consistently shown a majority of Americans support marriage equality, and two other reputable polls this week demonstrated just that. In addition to the Pew Research Center poll that found that even NOM’s would-be supporters think marriage is inevitable, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 51 percent of voters support marriage equality. More importantly, 56 percent believe the federal government should recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples, while only 39 percent oppose it. These results jibe with a Quinnipiac poll from April, CNN and CBS polls from March, and the ABC News/Washington Post poll that found 58 percent of Americans support marriage equality. NOM did not write about any of those polls.