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Phoning in Phony Polling


In the marriage debate, we pay a lot of attention to how polling questions are asked.

But a new report from Pew Research shows that we should watch where they’re being asked too. For years, FRC and other conservative groups have watched the media twist and distort survey questions to feed their “inevitability” narrative on same-sex “marriage.”

But, in election after election, those same researchers seemed surprised that the attitudes they measured in surveys didn’t show up with nearly the same ferocity as they did in polling results. A lot of that has to do with how the questions are phrased.

More often than not, left-leaning survey houses “prime” their surveys with language designed to steer people toward a particular result. In questions about same-sex “marriage,” they focus on words like “rights” or “outlaw” — any term they’ve proven to spark more empathy in the people they’re quizzing.

The goal is to predispose men and women to answer a certain way. It’s effective at creating headlines — but not nearly as useful at predicting how those same people will vote on the issue.

Why is that?

Well, Pew thinks it has to do with where and how these interviews are happening: during a live phone call or on the web.

In an interesting (and telling!) study, “From Telephone to the Web: The Challenge of Mode of Interview Effects in Public Opinion Polls,” Pew found that Americans did adapt their answer a little bit based on the mode of questioning.

But the biggest and most surprising swings of opinions were on LGBT issues.

If people were allowed to answer privately and anonymously, as opposed to on the phone with the pressures of political correctness, their responses spiked as much as 14%! When Pew asked if gays, lesbians, and transgenders “face a lot of discrimination,” only 48% answered yes online. But on the phone, they were 14 points more likely to say so!

It’s what some experts call “social desirability bias.” People give the answer they think you want to hear, instead of what they actually feel. That’s why there’s such a tremendous swing at the ballot box — sometimes as much as 6-10 percentage points on marriage protection amendments.

If you want to know where Americans really stand on marriage, the truth is in the ballots– where only three states directly voted to redefine it.

So be encouraged! All of these phony headlines about a seismic shift in cultural views are just the Left’s way of isolating people and forcing them into a P.C. box. Don’t buy it!

The other side doesn’t have “history” on its side — it has manufactured polling!


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