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Rhode Islanders support marriage

Timothy Kincaid

August 19th, 2010

Greenburg Quinlan Rosler has conducted a poll of Maine Rhode Island residents for the Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders about marriage attitudes in Rhode Island. Although this is a gay-sponsored poll and I have a problem with one part, it does not appear to be conducted in a way that would provide significantly invalid results.

The first 15 questions were either demographic or related to general political issues. Then there were several questions on gay issues. The first three were:

Now, I’d like to rate your feelings toward some people and organizations, with one hundred meaning a VERY WARM, FAVORABLE feeling; zero meaning a VERY COLD, UNFAVORABLE feeling; and fifty meaning not particularly warm or cold. You can use any number from zero to one hundred, the higher the number the more favorable your feelings are toward that person or organization. If you have no opinion or never heard of that person or organization, please say so.

16. Gay and lesbian people

45% responded with warm feelings
18% responded with cool feelings
61% the average response number

17. Gay rights groups

35% responded with warm feelings
27% responded with cool feelings
52% the average response number

18. Currently there is a bill being considered in the State General Assembly that would allow equal access to marriage for same-sex couples. Churches, clergy and other religious institutions would NOT be required to perform same-sex marriages. Do you favor or oppose this bill?

34% – Strongly favor
23% – Somewhat favor
12% – Somewhat oppose
20% – Strongly oppose
10% – (Don’t know/refused)

I’m not sure to what extent that the warm/cold questions influenced the answers on marriage. As they were not particularly leading, I doubt by much. And “allow equal access to marriage” is somewhat more likely to yield positive results than “allow same-sex couples to legally marry”, but again this may not be consequential.

However, I do think that reminding participants that religious institutions are not required to perform same-sex marriages can play a roll in driving polling results. Though on an issue this divided, perhaps not by more than five or six points and then likely would mostly show movement between the “favors” and “don’t knows”.

So even with this poll’s flaws, I think it is probably fair to say that a majority of Rhode Islanders support marriage equality and that opposition to same-sex marriage in Rhode Island is weak.

And probably the most important contributor to the support in Rhode Island is found in question 30:

Do you personally know or work with someone who is gay or lesbian?

79% – Yes
19% – No



Christopher Eberz
August 19th, 2010 | LINK

“Come out, come out wherever you are”

Richard Rush
August 19th, 2010 | LINK

Timothy, in your first sentence, didn’t you mean to say,
“a poll of Maine Rhode Island residents?”

F Young
August 19th, 2010 | LINK

“Greenburg Quinlan Rosler has conducted a poll of MAINE residents…”

This must be a mistake.

“…it does not appear to be conducted in a way that would provide significantly invalid results.”

I have no particular qualifications regarding polling, but I personally think that any poll on LGB issues that is done with human callers will overestimate support for LGB’s.

I think polls done by robot callers produce lower and more accurate results because respondents are not as embarassed expressing their true opinions when they deal with anomymous computers.

This particular poll seems to go out of its way to create empathy between the caller and respondent, by asking about warm and cold feelings, and by using the first person. So, I suspect that it overestimates support more than most.

F Young

August 19th, 2010 | LINK

I think the first thing to question would why they would poll Maine residents to gauge the opinions of Rhode Islanders. :)

Other Fred in the UK
August 20th, 2010 | LINK

Forgive me for being stupid, but surely highlighting the religious exemption merely causes respondents who might oppose such a bill because of misinformation or concerns about religious liberty to favour such a bill. The difference in results between this question and one that did not mention the religious exemption would be due to a lack of factual information known to respondents to the latter. Surely, the question including the mention of the religious exemption gives a ‘truer’ picture of peoples feelings on the matter?

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

I’d be interested to see a graph that shows how the people who personally knew someone who is gay fared as opposed to those who did not.

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

If you look later on, they ask first “do you favor or oppose gay marriage.” Then they explain the religious exemption and ask again. The support number increases significantly with the explanation. But even before that, there’s still a majority in support.

What’s most important to me is that of the 79% that know a gay/lesbian person, 81% know a g/l couple, and 78% know 4 or more g/l people. And for 56%, the g/l person they know best is a close friend or member of their family. Rhode Island is a small state, where everybody knows everybody. For a long time, that seemed to hold gay equality back, because it made it harder for people to come out — if everybody knows everybody, then everybody knows your parents. But then it reached a tipping point, where enough people were out and living perfectly happy lives — it got to be that because everybody knows everybody, everybody knew someone who was gay. And we’ve known for a very long time that knowing a gay/lesbian person is the single factor that makes people more likely to support equality.

I haven’t lived there in a while, but I love Rhode Island.

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

It’s just a shame that American’s are too uninformed about the Constitution and past practice to not understand that there has ALWAYS been and will ALWAYS continue to be a religious exemption to performing ANY marriage.

NO religion and NO religious leader has EVER been forced, by the government, to marry ANY two people that they didn’t want to.

I challenge anyone to provide a single example that proves this statement wrong.

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

Who wants to think of themselves as cold or unfavorable? They should have had more neutral terms like “approve” and “disapprove.” I don’t think those results show much that we didn’t already know.

Timothy Kincaid
August 20th, 2010 | LINK

“Maine” error fixed.

Tony P
August 21st, 2010 | LINK

I got the phone call with this survey so of course you already know how I answered.

I’m curious how they did their sampling.

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