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Is the Telegraph’s John Bingham a lying scoundrel or a blithering idiot?

Timothy Kincaid

June 8th, 2012

Bingham: liar or dunce?

John Bingham, the Social and Religious Affairs Editor on the Daily Telegraph, is either shamelessly lying in promotion of his opposition to equality in Britain or he is the biggest dunce to ever grace the pages of that newspaper. Bingham, without a moment’s hesitation repeated the “conclusions” of a “poll of homosexual people” paid for by Catholic Voices in order to bolster their claim that civil partnerships are enough and that the nation should not allow gay people equality.

The first poll of its kind in Britain also found that only a minority of gay people believe redefining marriage should be a “priority” and only half said that having the opportunity to marry was important to them personally.

By now our readers are well familiar with the difference between a poll that seeks to find out how the populace feels about a subject and a “poll” which uses loaded language, confusing questions, and a series of statements and prior questions in order to get a completely false and unrepresentative “conclusion” that can be used deceptively for public relations purposes. Clearly, Bingham is not a reader.

ComRes does not easily provide the methods used for sampling. The one item we do know is that their survey of “homosexual people” excluded “heterosexuals” and “refuse to answer” but includes the categories “gay/lesbian” and “bisexual” and “other” (ah, good old “other”). And considering that this is a candidate for (if not the very) worst example of a loaded poll that I’ve reviewed, I think it is far more likely than not that it too was rigged. [Update: it was an “online survey”, a polling method a step or two higher than “asking my friends and family”]

Here were the questions. Yes, you will laugh. Yes, you will find yourself muttering, “God, Bingham is a dunce not to see through this!”

    Does each of the following apply to you or not?

  • I am in a Civil Partnership
  • I am not in a Civil Partnership but would seriously consider it
  • I do not ever intend to be in a Civil Partnership
  • I would get married to my partner if the law permitted it

Each category allows for “applies”, “does not apply”, and “don’t know”. So a person in a Civil Partnership might answer yes or no to marriage, but the deliberately ambiguous language encourages a “doesn’t apply” response from those who strongly support marriage, but are currently partnerless.

    Does each of the following apply to you or not?

  • I am against marriage as an institution
  • I support marriage as an institution but only between a man and a woman
  • It is important to me that marriage is extended to same-sex couples
  • Insisting that Civil Partnership and marriage remain separate and distinct worsens public attitudes towards gay people

Again, it encourages those who oppose marriage as an institution to say that it is unimportant that marriage be extended to same-sex couples – a number that the Catholic Deceivers wanted to be as low as possible.

But now on to the question that qualifies this as a serious contender for “worst poll ever”. I mean even Maggie Gallagher wouldn’t put out this poll – and that’s really saying something.

    Do you agree or disagree with these statements?

  • David Cameron is only trying to extend marriage to LGBT people to make his Party look more compassionate rather than because of his convictions
  • Generally speaking the best environment for children is to be raised by their own father and mother in a loving relationship
  • Marriage is more about love between two people than it is about rearing and raising children
  • I think redefining marriage is a priority for gay people
  • True marriage equality would mean that same-sex couples could marry in places of worship as well as in civil locations
  • Faith groups should be forced to allow gay weddings in places of worship
  • There is no need to change the law on marriage because Civil Partnerships give all the same rights as marriage

How do you even answer this bullsh!t? Now do you think that “redefining marriage” is a “priority” for gay people? I don’t, so I would “disagree”. But then again I’ve never met a gay person who wanted to redefine marriage at all, though I know plenty who very much want to join the institution just as it is – except without discriminatory entrance requirements.

But absent a question that actually makes sense and reflects the views of the people being questioned, 39% “agreed”. I don’t even know what that means. But John Bingham thinks it means something so he parroted what the Catholic Deceivers fed him.

And look at the loaded “Faith groups should be forced to allow gay weddings in places of worship”. Obviously “forced” is thrown in there to make martyrs of the Catholic Deceivers. Say “no” to forcing and you don’t support marriage. Say “yes” to forcing and you hate religion and are tying to impose your will on people of faith.

But even beyond that, it’s vague and meaningless. Does that mean their places of worship? I would say, “no, Catholics should not be forced to allow gay weddings in Catholic Churches.” But that isn’t the issue in Britain. Rather, Catholics are trying to deny gay people the ability to marry in any places of worship, even those who are petitioning the government to allow them the religious freedom of conducting marriages in their own churches. So I could say “yes, Catholics should not be allowed to block gay weddings in churches that are none of their business”.

And after all of that confusion and nonsense and deception and intentionally vague wording, we come to the question that they are trying to drive: Do you agree or disagree that “There is no need to change the law on marriage because Civil Partnerships give all the same rights as marriage.”

Huh? I’m hearing double negatives so could you repeat the question?

And joy of all joys, they got 26% of respondents to say that they agreed. Yeah, mostly older and mostly rural, but hey they managed to get some positive response to that.

Which brings them to what they surely saw as the icing on the cake. Get ready to laugh. This is the question that would have led any responsible newspaper to say, “I’m sorry, we don’t print bullsh!t here.”

    Do you agree or disagree with these statements?

  • I’m glad I was raised by both a mother and a father because it means I can relate to both sexes

Really? Could they be more obvious? And what on earth does that have to do with the decision to support marriage rather than civil partnerships?

Okay, at least they didn’t follow it up with, “And why do you hate your Mum and Dad?” But to the credit of British gays, only 37% fell to the temptation to support Mum and Dad. So that question slipped out of the article somehow.

But while championing the completely bogus numbers in this completely bogus poll would have been dishonest, they went for the big lie. And having the mental competency of the average church mouse (or having not one smidgen of personal integrity), Bingham went along for the ride.

Looking at results for this ludicrous nonsense, Bingham announces

The poll suggests that support for changing the law to redefine marriage among the homosexual community could be more lukewarm than previously thought.

Or it suggests that Catholic Deceivers are a bunch or liars and you are a complete fool. I’m betting on the latter.

Comments

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Rick Loesser
June 8th, 2012 | LINK

I choose not to choose. The man is both a liar and a dunce.

TampaZeke
June 8th, 2012 | LINK

ComRes is quickly becoming ConRes.

Their recent polls are worthy of the American Family Association and World Net Daily who release daily polls where all of the options are anti-gay.

andrewdb
June 8th, 2012 | LINK

Consider the source.

The Telegraph has truly wonderful sources in the Brit Establishment, but beware – they certainly do seem to have a bias. They are the “Tory” paper in London – where newspapers seem to be much more publicly partisan than here in the USA.

Take, for example, Damian Thompson (please, take him!). His own description reads: “Damian Thompson is Editor of Telegraph Blogs and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. He was once described by The Church Times as a “blood-crazed ferret”.” Thompson is Roman Catholic and makes the Inquisition look weak-kneed.

TampaZeke
June 8th, 2012 | LINK

Do we have to choose one OR the other? What about option C, Both and…!

Donny D.
June 8th, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, don’t you mean scoundrel in the title, rather than scoundral?

Roy Dalgleish
June 8th, 2012 | LINK

Hello, the “Torygraph”, sorry, Telegraph, has come out with an anti-gay story?

That’s about as unusual as snow in Alaska!

They are the eyes, ears, nose and throat of the right wing here in the UK and are almost enough of a reason to move back home, except that no one here expects anything else from them,

Sorry, anyone taking this drivel seriously REALLY needs to take a pill and slow down.

jutta
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

Apart from the lousy methods applied in the poll Bingham just draws the wrong conclusion.
“The poll suggests that support for changing the law to redefine marriage among the homosexual community could be more lukewarm than previously thought.”

– No, the question was not even asked.

I personally know a lot of people (myself included) who are very critical towards the institution of marriage, who would not consider marrying, but who still hold a strong belief that same-sex couples should have the right to get married if they want to.

Peter Ould
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

An online poll of this kind does not involve allowing all and sundry to enter. Rather, it utilises an already established panel of members who are then weighted by their demographics so as to match as closely as possible the UK population. The idea that you can impune the survey just because you don’t understand the way it was conducted is not good journalism Tim.

There is nothing else wrong with the survey. The questions are not in any way biased and match similar polls conducted both here in the UK and in the US. But perhaps you’d like to tell us all what the questions should have been, rather than telling us all how these questions were SO wrong?

Ryan
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

It’s called a “push poll” Peter, where the questions asked are meant to push the people answering them a certain way. You know, like talking about churches being forced to marry gay people against their will, which gives the person taking the test the impression that the bill in question would do that. But of course, you read Timothy’s post, so you know what was wrong with the questions. As to your question (“what should the poll have asked?”), how about “do you support legalizing gay marriage, yes or no?” Pretty simple question, really. Odd that it was never asked.

Peter Ould
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

I’m not convinced that this is in any sense a “push poll” as you put it.

TK claims that the language is “ambiguous” but I really can’t see that. Is a statement like “I am in a Civil Partnership” ambiguous? Is “I am not in a Civil Partnership but would seriously consider it” ambiguous?

And the issue of churches being forced to do gender-neutral marriages is one that has come up here in the public conversation around the consultation. I don’t think the poll suggests for a moment that that is what the Government intends, and a polling firm (and it’s clients) are perfectly free to ask the public their opinion about all kinds of issues around public policy.

Now, I think there are issues with the way the poll has been reported (especially how the “don’t knows” have been handled) but that is a different issue as to whether this poll is a “push poll” (and BPC members are required NOT to do push polls, so the allegation is very serious).

Ryan
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

I think anyone with the ability to read English can see the truth, irrespective of your inability to be “convinced”. Frankly, I am not convinced that you are “not convinced”.

Ryan
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

Maybe this will help. Here’s how a push-poll would look if it were conducted by an organization supportive of marriage equality and trying to get that result.

Do you agree or disagree with these statements?

*David Cameron is a good man who believes in equal rights for all English citizens, regardless of sexual orientation

* Generally speaking, the best environment for children is one where they are loved by their parents.

* Marriage can be about both love between two people and about raising children.

* Those who are against marriage equality make it a priority to marginalize and demonize gay people.

* True marriage equality means that gay people are allowed to get married anywhere that straight people are allowed to get married..

* Faith groups should be arrested if they choose to perform gay marriage ceremonies.

* Civil Partnership are separate but equal.

Do you see the difference, now? Do you notice how all the questions I made up are not so much questions as pro-gay marriage talking points designed to “push” a result? That’s what this poll is, in the opposite direction.
I notice you glossed over my statement earlier wondering why the question “do you support legalizing gay marriage, yes or no?” was never asked. Why do you suppose it wasn’t?

Eric in Oakland
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

“I’m glad I was raised by both a mother and a father because it means I can relate to both sexes”

“There is no need to change the law on marriage because Civil Partnerships give all the same rights as marriage”

If this is not a push poll, as Peter claims, perhaps he can explain why these questions (and others) include “because” clauses? The inclusion of such clauses is a textbook example of push polling methodology, and serves no purpose except to bias the responses. Legitimate polls attempt to use neutral language and NEVER include apologetic phrases in questions.

Eric in Oakland
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

“David Cameron is only trying to extend marriage to LGBT people to make his Party look more compassionate rather than because of his convictions”

For those who try to claim it is not a push poll, the inclusion of this “question” is especially damning. Perhaps the most obvious element of a push poll is the use of negative statements about a political figure designed to influence respondents.

Timothy Kincaid
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

Peter,

The idea that you can impune the survey just because you don’t understand the way it was conducted is not good journalism Tim.

My name is Timothy, I am not a journalist, I understand the way it was conducted, and seriously, Peter, this isn’t a poll you want to defend.

Ambiguous

A question that uses the same term in two different ways is ambiguous. One that does so for a political purpose is dishonest. This poll used the word “partner” in both a very specific way and then asked their “zinger” question in a general way.

First they asked a three questions about Civil Partnerships and whether the participant is in one. Then, having established “partner” as a specific person, they asked this:

“I would get married to my partner if the law permitted it” [emphasis added]

Now the only three possible answers are “applies”, “does not apply”, or “I don’t know”.

So what is the correct answer for a person who support same sex marriage and fully intends to marry some day but does not currently have a partner? Does it “apply” or “not apply”?

Push Poll

Ryan and Eric both did a good job illustrating this.

Basically, Peter, whenever loaded language is used, you can know that a per-defined outcome is the goal. “Should be forced”, “there is no need” and even the term “redefine” illustrate that clearly.

More neutral language might be, for example, the following two balancing questions:

Faith groups should not be allowed to conduct same-sex weddings in their own places of worship, even if doing so is within their doctrine

Faith groups should be required to conduct same-sex weddings in their own places of worship, even if doing so is contrary to their doctrine

Finally,

Peter, I think that if you look at this objectively you’ll agree that this survey is astonishingly bad and thoroughly dishonest.

I don’t think you are a dishonest person. So you really may wish to avoid attaching yourself to something that is so blatantly a violation of God’s commandment that our witness not be false.

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