NOM’s sad little dishonest “survey”

Timothy Kincaid

February 2nd, 2012

What do you do when all the polls are against you? What do you do when accurately reporting social attitudes demonstrates that you are outside the mainstream and that people aren’t buying your arguments anymore. What do you do to justify your continued ‘defense of the family’ when it becomes clear that ‘the family’ doesn’t want your defense?

Well, if you are the National Organization for Marriage, you make sh!t up. And what better way than to conduct your own “survey” of the attitudes of Washington voters and pass it off as meaningful. Here’s what they say about their little survey.

When reminded that Washington State has a civil union law for gay couples, 57% of voters say it is not necessary to redefine marriage. 72% of voters think state lawmakers should work on other issues rather than same-sex marriage. A nearly identical number -71% of voters—believe the people should decide the marriage issue; only 9% think legislators should decide the matter.

“If the Washington Legislature wants to change the definition of marriage, which 57% of voters oppose, NOM calls on them to give this decision to voters. Thirty-one other states have been able to vote on the definition of marriage, and Washington voters deserve the same opportunity,” Brown said. “Voters have made it clear in this survey that they alone should decide the marriage issue—not legislators. Let the people vote.”

But reading the actual survey is just funny. They tried everything they could to get desired results from this “survey” and still Washingtonians didn’t give them what they wanted. And while the survey is meaningless from a social survey standpoint, it does illustrate how dishonest NOM actually is willing to be.

First, NOM stacked the deck. Choosing an age sample that understated those under 45 and overstate those over 65 by about 3-4%. They also found a sample that is 36% conservative and 34% liberal on social issues. In Washington. And in a state that voted for Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama (with an 18 point spread), their sample is 37% leaning Democrat and 35% leaning Republican.

And then NOM played the ‘push poll’ game, setting up language to try and jostle participants into giving them an answer that they can use for political gain. It’s a very common tactic of politicians, but it is despicable and immoral when used by a group that pretends to be protecting the voters.

The first question is about whether the participant is a voter. No problem. But then it is followed by three ‘set-up’ questions designed to place the participant as an opponent to the legislature: 2) is Washington going in the right direction or wrong track, and 3) how would you rate the job performance of Gov. Gregoire and 4) the legislature. Rating categories were excellent, good, only fair, poor, other.

“Only fair” is an interesting option. Usually “fair” stands alone, as an indication of acceptable but not particularly laudable. However, by adding “only”, NOM poisons this option and takes it from “okay” and implies a failure. This intentional shading was necessary in order to push the participant into being suspicious of the legislature and governor.

And then come the marriage questions. And the first one is just laughable obvious.

5. As you probably know, since 2010 Washington has had a civil union law which gives gay couples all the legal rights of married couples. Now some people want to pass a new law, which changes the definiton of marriage, so that it is no longer between a man and a woman, but between any two people. Do you feel it is necessary or not necessary to pass now a new law which changes the definition of marriage in this way?

36% Necessary
57% Not Necessary
7% Don’t Know / No Response

Any two people. Hmmm. Like, say, siblings or parent and child or fundamentalist Mormon and his unwilling 14 year old bride, or you and the girl down the street that put out a restraining order on you. Any two people… yeah, that’s just a lie. Not a misstatement, not a convenient term for a complex issue. Nope. Just a lie.

And is it “necessary now”? Well, considering the economy and other issues of concern, having 36% say that it’s necessary now is a HUGE failure for NOM.

6. Who do you think should decide what the definition of marriage is in Washington state: should it be defined by the courts, or should it be defined by the state legislature, or should it be defined by the voters of the state?

8% Defined by the courts
9% Defined by the Legislature
71% Defined by the voters
12% Don’t know / no response

Okay. That’s probably somewhat reflective of their views.

7. If you were able to speak today with your local state legislator, would you tell him or her that passing a new which charges the definition of marriage is something you want the state legislature to work on at this time, or would you tell him or her that the state legislature should work on solving other problems?

23% Work on marriage law
72% Work on solving other problems
4% Don’t know/no response

Again, colossal fail for NOM. A quarter of Washington residents think that marriage equality is more important than anything else.

But here is the clincher. Here is the question to which everything was geared. Here is the answer that NOM has been driving for:

8. And if you were able to speak today with your local state legislator, would you tell him or her to vote for this new law which changes the definition of marriage, so that it is no longer between a man and a woman but between any two people, or to vote against this change?

42% Vote for new marriage law
49% Vote against marriage change
10% Don’t know / No Response

Having done everything they could to stack the survey population and the skew the poll to show that “the people” don’t want equality, still they couldn’t get more than half to say to vote against the bill. Having gotten participants to agree that it wasn’t necessary or more important than other matters and that it should be up to “the voters”, still 42% said to vote for the “any two people” bill.

Oh, NOM, you are a sad little group, aren’t you? Unethical, immoral, dishonest, and still losing your culture war over the hearts and minds of decent people.

occono

February 2nd, 2012

…. I still don’t like that public voting result.

andrew

February 2nd, 2012

Tim, I know that wading through these toxic waters is taxing, but for the sake of the readability of the article, and for your excellent standing as an online journalist, you might seek to employ a little less venom in your article (even though they deserve it). We get it, honestly — you don’t need to characterize these morons (save it for the comments section !!!) After all, my hope is that your articles — all the work you put into them — will get picked up elsewhere and cited. Chances of that go down when it devolves into name calling.

Tony P

February 2nd, 2012

NOM simply cherry picks anything that isn’t within their range of acceptable. They play it fast an loose with numbers too.

andrew

February 2nd, 2012

Nearly everyone who presents statistics “handles” them in some way. Sometimes it’s to illustrate the thrust of the artile, sometimes it’s to present a highly charged argument. The question, obviously, is the integrity of the reporting organization.

All of that comes *after* the tweaking of the pollster — as correctly illustrated, how you ask the question can be done either to achieve an objective representation of likely opinion, or it can be done to get the response you want so you can issue a press release… or it can even be done explicitly to shape opinion (by asking a “question”)…

Obviously, in both regards, NOM is engaging in what goes beyond what any ethical pollster or journalist would argue is acceptable practice, and, yes, it borders on fraud (they are not fabricating results, just predetermining the outcome).

In short, the results are meaningless to anyone with detailed understanding of the issues here.

andrew

February 2nd, 2012

The question is: who’s listening? Where else are these numbers being touted? We’ve seen nasty statistical “laundering” used for years (someone makes up a statistic, and then cites that publication going forward, which is then picked up by other like-minded pressure groups, and then is ultimately shorthanded into political talking points, speeches, etc., thus entering into the realm of established fact).

On the one hand, these results are so ludicrous, and obtained in such a blatantly unethical manner that we all know that it’s silly.

But we’ve also seen instances in which numbers made up out of whole cloth ended up being regarded as “fact”… and we need to safeguard against that eventuality WITHOUT sounding oversensitive, dramatic, or whacky ourselves (which we kind of do, just by engaging in the conversation — we are sullied by their stink).

TN

February 2nd, 2012

I think a lot more people can see through their lies than what we all think. I don’t consider myself to be a “smart” person, but I’m about 99% sure I would have came to the same conclusion as you have. I find is so hard to believe that they actually have a big following. The people who are voting against us aren’t doing it because of these fake polls. They are doing it because of animus.

JohnAGJ

February 2nd, 2012

They’re probably going to get their wish anyways with a referendum being held this November. You’d think they’d be happy at the chance to potentially add another “victory” to their column.

Richard Rush

February 2nd, 2012

Wouldn’t you think that God would give his most devoted followers more to work with than lies and deception? Is that really the best He has to offer? Or maybe God is just sitting back waiting for His followers to do better, and always being disappointed with their ineptitude. Either way, if their positions are correct, why aren’t they supportable with truthfulness and facts? Is that really too much to ask? Or does God only concern Himself with magic truth and magic facts? Perhaps logic and reason is only for the little people.

When God was younger He never hesitated to viciously smite people for the slightest infraction. It must have been an exciting time, and I’d like to see some of that youthful enthusiasm again so we could finally be rid of NOM.

Steve

February 3rd, 2012

I think there is even more bias in the questions than you realize, esp. in #5, the one that gives NOM the 57% number they are touting. First, it says that civil unions gives gay couples “all the legal rights of married couples.” (not true). Then it says that “some people” want to allow gay marriage. The term “some people” is a negative one and implies people different from most of us. They also use the word “now”, trying to imply that there are other better priorities. Last, it couches the rest of the question in terms about “changing the definition of marriage,” again giving negative connotations.

Imagine if the question instead went like this:

5. As you probably know, since 2010 Washington has had a civil union law which intended to give gay couples all the legal rights of married couples. However, civil unions have been proven to never provide all the rights of marriage. Now, becauese of this, the legislature is considering passing a new law, which will permit gay couples to get married. Do you feel it is necessary or not necessary to pass a new law which will allow gay couples to get married in order to give their relationships more equity with opposite sex couples?

I’ll bet my question would get a vastly different answer, one far more in favor of marriage equality. And I’ll bet is the question were written in a more neutral way without added sentences about the goals of the law, such as: “Should the legislature allow gay couples to get married?,” that too would bring in different numbers.

Theo

February 3rd, 2012

The smartest show ever to air on television was the UK’s “Yes, Minister” and its progeny “Yes, Prime Minister”. Here, Sir Nigel Hawthorne explains how to use leading questions to get the result you want. Obviously NOM saw this and considered it a how-to guide:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA&feature=related

Lymis

February 6th, 2012

Steve touched on it above, but one of the big lies is that civil unions give all of the benefits of marriage. Not only don’t they, but they don’t by a wide margin – marriage gives far more, and more important benefits than civil unions.

While it may be true at this time that states don’t have the option of giving access to federal benefits, there are ever-increasing numbers of so-far successful challenges to DOMA on the federal level, and if DOMA falls or is repealed, same-sex married couples will immediately get those benefits while civilly unioned couples will not -because their state discriminated against them.

Richard Rush

February 6th, 2012

Civil unions, and domestic partnerships do offer one huge benefit: they allow straight people to maintain their illusion of superiority. While straights are encouraged to become married, gays are grudgingly allowed to become civilized or domesticated.

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