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James Peron

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NOM Poll On Same-Sex Marriage Skewed To Get Results NOM Wanted

Posted: 06/22/11 09:10 PM ET

The Christian Post claims that a new poll shows that "57 percent of New York voters oppose gay marriage."

They claim that 57% want heterosexual marriage only, while 32% support equality, and 11% don't know what they believe. Paragraphs later they tell readers that the "poll was commissioned by National Organization for (sic) Marriage." This is the secretive, highly funded anti-gay group, run by Maggie Gallagher.

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 conservative, Republican outfit to do it?

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

The clearest indicator of support for equality of rights for gay couples is age. Older people are against it; younger people are for it. The younger a person is, the more likely it is that he or she supports 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% 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 younger 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 surveyed were 40-49. That is actually pretty close to this 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. This age group, instead of making up a representative one-third of people polled, was more than two-thirds of the NOM poll.

While NOM surveyed only one person under the age of 40, for every five they ought to have done, they surveyed older people at more than twice the numbers required for accurate sampling.

If NOM claimed their poll showed that most older 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 to get proportionate representation regarding race, gender and ages. There are strong correlations to positions on issues and where people fall in these 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 oppose same-sex marriage.

They skewed 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 fudged 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-represented conservatives.

It should be clear that NOM got the numbers they did because they conducted a less-than-legitimate poll. They polled older people in disproportionate numbers. They surveyed people who were, on average, much more religious than the typical New Yorker. And they disproportionately polled conservatives. Here is how an honest headline from NOM would read: "Poll finds that older, 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, deceptive. I fear that the commandment, "thou shalt not lie," is not taken very seriously in the Christian Right, at least when it comes to their culture war.