The Alliance Defense Fund Lies to its Base

Rob Tisinai

August 4th, 2011

This week I came across an article so very lame there seemed no point in in debunking it. Then I saw it was from the Alliance Defense Fund.

Oh geez.

These folks are co-counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, the group defending Prop 8 in Federal court. I’ve already written about their ridiculous notion that Christian state employees in New York state don’t have to abide by the law. Basically, they’re the country’s chief anti-gay legal group, and while it pains me to take them seriously, they are a genuine threat.

The new article is called, Games the left plays with polls about same-sex ‘marriage.’ It’s egregious because the author, Brian Raum, claims to tell the truth about a gay-positive poll when in fact he merely lies about it.

Brian is complaining about a survey from Harris Interactive (HI) that shows strong support for marriage equality. He thinks HI stacked the deck:

Harris Interactive purposely oversampled those who engage in homosexual behavior, thus guaranteeing the results would not represent the overall American sentiment, but rather would be skewed to reflect the views of those seeking to further the homosexual agenda. (To the credit of Harris Interactive, they admitted the oversampling in the fine print at the bottom of their survey results, albeit in a place few will see, and even fewer will care to search for.)

How significant was the oversampling? Consider this: those who identify as homosexual only constitute 1.4 to 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the Harris Interactive poll, they constituted a sample of well over 14 percent. With this distortion understood, it’s no wonder the poll showed that “‘49% of all U.S. adults…support the right for same-sex couples to marry,’ [vs.] 41% who oppose the right, and 10% who are not at all sure.”

In other words, Oh my gosh, no wonder the survey’s so gay-friendly — it has 10 times as many homosexuals as it should!

So much wrong here.

Sampling and weights

Brian doesn’t understand the difference between sampling and analysis. A sample might have too many or too few gays, straights, Protestants, Catholics or whatever. Pollsters compensate by weighting their data to get the right proportions when they do their analysis.

In fact, by applying some basic algebra to HI’s results, you’ll find they weighted LGBTs as about 7.7% of the adult US population. A bit high? Perhaps. But nowhere near the 14% Brian wants us to believe.

Brian ought to understand this difference between sampling and analysis — certainly if he’s going to earn money writing about this stuff. That brings up the usual question: incompetence or rank dishonesty? Hard to know.

What’s the right weight?

Brian wants us to think 1.4 -1.7% would be an appropriate LGBT weight, based on CDC figures. But he’s, er, mistaken. Those numbers just cover the Ls and the Gs (1.3% of all women for lesbians and 2.3% for gay men). What about the Bs? Bisexuals add another 2.8% for women and 1.8% for men. Now we’re looking at 4.1% for LGB.

But there’s more.

The CDC also lists “Something else” and “Did not report.” No way of knowing exactly what that means, but I can tell you this: 9.7% of women declined to say they were straight, along with 9.8% of all men.

In other words, according to Raum’s own source, HI’s LGBT weight should be at least 4.1%, and possibly a good bit higher. Once again, incompetence or rank dishonesty? Hard to know.

Oh, and one more delicious bit: Antigays love to say there are no homosexuals, just homosexual behavior. You see that in Brian’s wording: “Harris Interactive purposely oversampled those who engage in homosexual behavior…” But the CDC measures that, too. 3.2% of those self-identified straight men have engaged in homosexual behavior, along with 9.0% of straight women. Using Brian’s criteria actually bumps up our numbers even further.

I truly hate this no-homosexuals-just-homosexual-behavior meme, so I love watching it turn around and bite Brian in the ass.

What if we only weighted LGBTs at 4.1%?

Brian’s implying Harris Interactive counted ten times as many LGBTs as it should have. What a conspiracy! The truth is not so ominous. Let’s go to the lowest possible extreme and assume HI should have used a 4.1% weight. How much difference does that make?

Not much.

A bit more algebra says instead of 49 – 41 result favoring marriage equality (plus 10% undecided), we’ll get a 48 – 43 victory,  (total percentage not equal to 100 due to rounding). That difference is basically insignificant in the world of statistics.

Poor Brian. All that work debunking the poll, and it amounts to nothing. Incompetence or rank dishonesty?

Does Brian care?

Brian is just wrong, wrong, wrong in this article. The irony is that he’s trying to expose “games the left plays with polls about same-sex ‘marriage.” Combine all his falsehoods with his ballsy assertion of setting the record straight, and you have to wonder if the truth really matters to him. Is it paranoid to think he’s happy lying to his own base as long as it fires them up? Could a strategy like that even work?

A hint appears in the comments section of his article at TownHall.com. One fellow, Lon, pointed out Brian’s confusion over sampling and analysis. Here are the two responses Lon got back:

And you are not up-to-speed on research rules.

Lon the fraking loon of TH grunts again………………………

Another commenter, Jeremy, explained, “Over-sampling gays doesn’t guarantee results skewed in their favor. He probably thinks it means over-representing.” Simple, direct, civil, and true. Jeremy got one response:

Thanks.

We needed input from an intellectually-challenged gay.

Now we have it.

They don’t care. Lying to your base, it seems, works just fine for anti-gay activists. As long as anti-gay is your only moral value.

Travis

August 4th, 2011

Wouldn’t the easist way to refute this be just to give LGBT the 1.7% weight he claims is correct, do the math and show that a plurality is still in favor of marriage equality. It looks like that would still be about 47% vs 44%. So even his best case scenario has him losing on the losing side.

Then point out that the plurality is an underestimate for all the reasons you mention.

Rob Tisinai

August 4th, 2011

Excellent point, Travis.

tristram

August 4th, 2011

“A bit more algebra says instead of 49 – 41 result favoring marriage equality, we’ll get a 48 – 43 victory (total percentage not equal to 100 due to rounding).”

There is a 9 or 10% discrepancy – isn’t it due to ‘no opinion/don’t know’-type responses rather than ’rounding’?

Rob Tisinai

August 4th, 2011

tristam, the rounding refers to the adjusted numbers (48% – 43%) adding up to 101% instead of 100%

tristram

August 4th, 2011

Rob- the adjusted numbers 43 and 48 add up to 91.

TampaZeke

August 4th, 2011

@tristram, not once you add the 10% “not at all sure” back in. Then it’s 101%, hence the rounding disclaimer.

SharonB

August 4th, 2011

ADF Lies.

In other news, Water Wet; Fire, Hot!

Rob Tisinai

August 4th, 2011

Tristan, thanks for the correction — I did add it up wrong (lordy!). And thanks Zeke for pointing out where to find the missing 10%. I’ll update the post.

Blake

August 4th, 2011

Rob, I enjoyed your post but I do have one objection: I don’t think its fair to declare that “They don’t care” based on the responses to two comments. The comments’ responses, in my opinion, reflect the tendency of people on the internet to wrap themselves in an echo chamber wherein they hear & read only what supports their prejudiced worldview. People have a staggering ability to ignore fact, truth, and science if the results don’t conform to their prejudices. Oftentimes in such an environment any dissenting commentary is instantly equivalent to heresy. Hence the offhanded dismissals. There is no evidence Brian Raum even reads or follows-up on the comments. There is also no evidence that fair-minded readers didn’t dismiss the entire article upon seeing the comment by Lon. It appears the majority of the commentary attached to the article is the sort of otherworldly conversations that people have in comments sections. That is to say the majority of the 400 comments or so were probably made by about 40 people.

It appears Brian Raum really is just ignorant/arrogant.

John B.

August 4th, 2011

No mention of the poll that Mr. Raum does cite approvingly? The ADF-commissioned poll that shows that 62% of Americans are opposed to same-sex marriage? Maggie was apparently referring to this poll in her letter to Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto who they obsequiously call “brilliant and witty” even after he has called NOM “deceptive” for a second time–and that was without questioning her poll number or wondering why it was so out-of-line with every other poll. Talk about deceptive!

NOM Responds to WSJ Columnist: “It’s Time To Fight For The Survival of Marriage” http://www.nomblog.com/11986

Although they do leave out his follow-up comments in their blog post. But of course this one poll, commissioned by a virulently anti-gay group, whose results make it an extreme outlier but tell them what they want to hear, is being touted as the TRUTH on NOM’s blog: http://www.nomblog.com/12105

No commentary from them on why this poll is any more credible than the ones they and their supporters routinely ridicule and decry. Also precious little information on the methodology of the P.O.S. (Public Opinion Strategies; I’m not making this up!) poll. But according to NOM this one P.O.S. poll, an extreme outlier that flies in the face of all other polls (and whose methodology they won’t release) is what proves all the OTHER polls are unreliable. Because they don’t like what all those other polls say.

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