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Posts for August, 2010

How to conduct a fraudulent “poll”

Timothy Kincaid

August 13th, 2010

Hello, my name is Timothy and I’m from Fraudulent Polling, Inc., a national polling agency. Can I ask you a few questions about issues that you will face in the upcoming election? Thank you.

First I’d like to get your views on some general subjects. Please answer yes or no to the following:

* Do you kill and eat little frisky puppies and fluffy kittens?

* Do you think that those who eat little frisky puppies and fluffy kittens should be entitled to special rights?

* Do you think that people should be forced at gunpoint to kill and eat little frisky puppies and fluffy kittens?

* Do you agree that an important role of government is to protect the weak from those who are depraved and a threat to others?

* Do you agree that inhumanity to little frisky puppies and fluffy kittens shows true depravity of character?

* Would you mostly support, completely support, or overwhelmingly support legislators who want to ban the slaughter and eating of puppies and kittens by passing the new Healthy Nutrition Act?

Press Release: A new poll found that by a huge majority, Americans support the Healthy Nutrition Act, a vegan-only bill which would charge anyone who engaged in the eating of any meat or any animal-based product with first degree murder.

————-

Of course that is silliness. But it isn’t that far off the mark of what some unscrupulous characters do to try and convince others that their unpopular views have support. And they don’t get much more unscrupulous than Elaine Donnelly, the extremely wacky president of the anti-gay Center for Military Readiness.

Elaine has commissioned and released a new “poll” that claims that Americans oppose the overturn of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And it’s a doozie. In fact, it’s nearly a case-study of how to conduct a fraudulent “poll”.

And here are a few of the very obvious reasons why.

First, we checked to see who conducted the “research”. The political association of a pollster does not automatically disqualify their findings, but if there is strong ideological bent then one must question whether the poll is legitimate or simply propaganda.

In this case it is some outfit called “the polling company inc. / WomanTrend”. Sounds good, right? Sure, until you realize that the group is headed by conservative strategist Kellyanne Conway (whose husband was heavily involved in efforts to impeach Bill Clinton) and conducts “research” for the Heritage Foundation and other such organizations. Red flag, number one.

Then we looked at the options for answers. Rather than give a range of possibilities, most included only variations of the answers that supported Donnelly’s agenda. In some cases “I don’t know” or “neither” were not provided as an option, cuing the participant to instead select between choices that might not be optimal.

Then we inspected at the language and found it deceptive and dishonest. For example, look at this little phrase in the summary of the “poll”,

Respondents were informed at the beginning of the survey, “Throughout this survey, “gay or lesbian” and “homosexual” are used interchangeably.” Numerous questions throughout this poll employed the words “lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons”—terms that are used by leading advocates of overturning the law.

Well, that’s interesting. While it is true that “leading advocates” do use the term “lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons”, it is a complete lie that they use it in context of this law. Because while “transgenders in the barracks” may frighten the horses, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell does not impact transgender people one way or the other.

Finally we analyzed the order of the questions to see if they “push” the participants towards a mindset or a viewpoint before the big question is asked. And Conway and Donnelly’s questions were about the most blatant that I’ve ever seen.

We aren’t provided with the exactly language of the script but it appears that the following questions were asked in this order:

1. In 1993 Congress passed a law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military. Please tell me whether you (ROTATE) agree or disagree with the following findings that are in the current law.

1.a. One finding says, QUOTE “The primary purpose of the armed forces is to prepare for and to prevail in combat should the need arise.” END QUOTE

1.b. One finding says, QUOTE “The military is a specialized society…that is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs, and traditions.” END QUOTE

OK, most everyone agreed to those two statements. These are not, of themselves, egregious questions, but they do set the tone and suggest that “the current law” has the right priorities. Let’s go on.

2. I will now read to you the opinions of two people. Please tell me which comes closest to your own view:
(ROTATED PERSON 1/PERSON 2)

Person 1: In considering this issue, Congress should listen mostly to advocates who want to overturn the law and to require the armed forces to accept professed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the military.

Person 2: In considering this issue, Congress should listen mostly to the four chiefs of staff of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, who have expressed concerns about overturning the current law.

This question pits “advocates who want to require transgender persons” against “the chiefs of staff who have expressed concern”. A completely false dichotomy. (Amusingly, in the footnotes they praise themselves for not using the phrase “gay activist group”). Not only is this not about transgender persons, but there is no mention that the repeal is supported by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Yet, surprisingly, the support for person two was only 48% to 41%. Those pesky “advocates” and their transgender folk have more support than Conway and Donnelly like. So it’s time to smear the President.

3. In his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama promised that if he was elected President, he would seek to repeal, or overturn, the law regarding homosexuals in the military, often called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the law in 1993. Do you believe he is assigning high priority to this issue (ROTATED) mostly out of principle or mostly for political reasons?

Not too surprisingly, 57% found that Obama’s imagined motivations for “assigning high priority” are the same as the same reasons that our community suspects for his doing damn well little on the matter.

But now that they’ve introduced sinister motivation, they now need to imply a threat:

4. Please tell me which comes closest to your own view:
(ROTATED PERSON 1/PERSON 2)

Person 1: If the current law is overturned, the military should attempt to change personal attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality and impose “zero tolerance” career penalties on anyone who disagrees for any reason, including religious convictions.

Person 2: Even if the current law is overturned, the military should not attempt to change personal attitudes and feelings toward human sexuality. Imposing career penalties on anyone who disagrees would discriminate against military personnel and chaplains who do not support homosexuality.

Ookie spookie. Those advocates want to engage in mind control and court martial those who go to church. Good wholesome Christian kids will be stockaded and chaplains will be beaten if they don’t endorse the radical militant homosexual agenda.

Scared enough yet? Oh, but there’s more. You knew it was coming…

5. The military should modify training programs to promote acceptance of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in all military colleges, training programs, and schools run by the U.S. Defense Department.

Oh Noes! The children! They’re coming after the children!

6. Over the next six months, what should be the number one priority for Congress and the President?
(READ AND ROTATED. ACCEPTED ONLY ONE.)

Creating jobs
Reducing Government spending/the deficit
Plugging the oil leak in the Gulf/cleaning up the oil spill
Winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Changing the law to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the Military

Well gosh, that proves that our legislators are Wasting! their Time! on these nefarious schemes because they can only do one thing at a time. And if DADT is overturned, jobs will be lost and pelicans will die.

And now, now that you know that it’s transgender advocates who are going against the most important purposes of the military and who are ignoring the concerns of military leaders so that they can push this unwanted effort to jail Christians and brainwash children, all of which is motivated by political cynicism, now let’s get your opinion.

7. Would you prefer that your elected representatives in Washington, DC (ROTATED) vote to overturn the 1993 law and allow homosexual persons to serve openly in the military, OR vote to keep the law as it is?

48% VOTE TO KEEP IT AS IT IS
45% VOTE TO OVERTURN
7% DO NOT KNOW/DEPENDS (VOLUNTEERED)
1% REFUSED (VOLUNTEERED)

And that’s how your conduct a completely fraudulent poll. It’s almost surprising that there weren’t questions about slaughtering puppies and kittens.

And amusingly, even after pushing the participants as hard as possible, less than half opposed repealing DADT. And even after trying to scare them with career penalties and brainwashed children, 34% of military members polled supported overturning DADT and enacting a “zero-tolerance” policy.

This is just downright funny. But what do you bet that John McCain ends up waiving it around in Washington.

CNN Poll: half of Americans think Constitution requires marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

August 11th, 2010

Anti-gays like the National Organization for Marriage like to claim that Judge Walker thwarted the will of the vast majority of Americans by finding Proposition 8 to be in violation of the Constitution. Not so, according to a new poll from CNN:

37. Do you think gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage
recognized by law as valid?

Yes 49%
No 51%

37A. Do you think gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their
marriage recognized by law as valid?

Yes 52%
No 46%
No opinion 2%

Each question was asked of half their sample. The sampling error on these questions is +/- 4.5%

Marriage support in the Americas

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2010

Americas Quarterly gives a good summary of the current status of LGBT rights in the Americas. They also provide a graph of the support for marriage equality in the various nations. Based on the American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), it provides more than a yes or no answer to the question of support.

With public policies toward gay marriage varying widely, this is a critical moment to look at citizens’ opinions with respect to same-sex marriage. First, we examine levels of support for same-sex couples having the right to marry. Then, we assess both individual- and national-level determinants of variation in that level of support. Analysis is drawn from data from the American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) survey, which includes 42,238 respondents from 25 nations in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean were asked this question:

We asked the following question: How strongly do you approve or disapprove of same-sex couples having the right to marry?

Responses were given based on a 1-10 scale, where ‘1’ meant “strongly disapprove” and ‘10’ meant “strongly approve.” These responses were then recalibrated on a 0-100 basis.

New Zealand researcher reports correlation between sexual behavior and childhood abuse

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2010

The New Zealand Mental Health Survey was a project between 2002 and 2003 in which 13,000 New Zealand residents were given face to face interviews on a number of subjects involving mental health. Dr. Elisabeth Wells of the University of Otago reviewed the data collected and announced that there was a correlation between childhood trauma and homsexuality (Otago Daily Times)

Information extracted from 13,000 face-to-face interviews clearly showed those with same-sexual or bisexual orientation were more likely to have experienced negative events in childhood, Associate Prof Elisabeth Wells said yesterday.

People who had experienced sexual abuse as children were three times more likely to identity themselves as homosexual or bisexual than those who had not experienced abuse, she said. Also, the more adverse events someone experienced in childhood, the more likely they were to belong to one of the “non-exclusively heterosexual” groups.

We can expect anti-gay activists to immediately jump to Dr. Well’s conclusions and declare them evidence that sexual orientation is a product of environment (and therefore – by some strange logic – gay people are not worthy of civil equality).

I have not yet obtained Dr. Well’s study. But sight unseen there are glaring problems with this research.

First, we should consider the sample quality: (NZHerald)

The study questioned 13,000 people aged 16 and over on mental health issues. Ninety-eight per cent of the respondents identified themselves as heterosexual, compared to 0.8 per cent identifying themselves as homosexual, 0.6 per cent as bisexual and 0.3 per cent as “something else”.

Experiencing a same-sex encounter was more common than identifying as either homosexual or bisexual. Nearly 2 per cent reported they had been in a same-sex relationship, while another 3 per cent reported having experienced a same-sex encounter.

Either New Zealanders are unlike others samples of humanity or there is something wrong with the way in which the original study was conducted. By comparison, the US’ CDC report in 2005 found that 90.2% of US men identified as heterosexual, 2.3% as gay, 1.8% as bisexual, 3.9% as something else, and 1.8% didn’t answer the question.

Zero point eight percent is way outside the normal range of responses for sexual identity. This is such an outlier that it is difficult to give credibility to any conclusions drawn from this sample. Basically, of the 13,000 participants, only about 100 were homosexual and 75-80 we bisexual.

And even more oddly, it appears that more people have “been in a same-sex relationship” than the total combined homosexual and bisexual population. This seems peculiar and suggests that perhaps there is confusion either in the questions or in the way in which the survey was conducted.

Secondly, at least according to news reports Dr. Wells lumped anyone with any same-sex experience into one category regardless of identity or extent of sexual history.

The New Zealand Mental Health Survey by the University of Otago in Christchurch has found that people identifying themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or having had same-sex encounters are more likely to have experienced events such as sexual assault and violence in the home as children.

This seems to be a particularly poor way of identifying specific populations. Unless, of course, one is viewing any same-sex experience to be a troublesome act and you’re seeking to look for traits of sexual nonconformity.

Third, the study is based on face to face questioning. Researchers have long known that controversial or sensitive information is seldom accurately collected by this methodology. (Dominion Post)

Other researchers and gay rights advocates took issue with the study’s findings. Green MP Kevin Hague, who is gay and a former director of the Aids Foundation, said the research should be taken “with an enormous grain of salt”. “I think it’s pretty unlikely that there is any underlying real association.”

The more likely explanation was the way the study was done. “Respondents who are prepared to talk to interviewers about what may be the sensitive subject of their same-sex experience or attraction may also be the most likely to be prepared to talk to the interviewers about other sensitive subjects – in this case traumatic childhood experiences.”

Fourth, Dr. Well’s appears to have an understanding of sexual orientation that is non-conventional – one might even say that it closely mirrors that of another age, one which is seldom currently found outside of anti-gay activism.

“I suspect there might be some gay and lesbian people who will be indignant, but it is not my intention to anger them. You could say that if someone was sexually abused as a child, chooses to live as a homosexual and lives life well, then that is not a bad thing. But if they are living a homosexual life and regretting it, that is another matter.”

Dr. Wells may be speaking out of ignorance; she simply may not have read the literature on the subject before releasing her opinions. Or perhaps she is seeing her work as thwarting collected wisdom and research and instead justifying or advocating for reorientation therapy.

It’s hard to tell.

Finally, Dr. Wells appears to be taking leaps.

When a responsible researcher finds a correlation, they report a correlation. They may speculate as to the reasons, but they do not announce causation or linkage, association and they never conclude more than their study finds. Sadly not all researchers are responsible.

Again, we are going from news reports which may not be accurate:

She said there was no way of knowing from her study why there was a link between negative events in childhood and same-sex sexual orientation.

No. They was a correlation. Linkage assumes that the correlation is tied to causation, something that was not studied by Dr. Wells and about which she cannot speak.

People who either identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual, or have had a same-sex encounter or relationship, tend to come from more disturbed backgrounds,” Associate Professor Wells said.

That is simply not consistent with her findings. (stuff.nz)

Of those who reported sexual abuse or rape in childhood, about 15 per cent were non-heterosexual. Of those who had not had these experiences only five per cent were non-heterosexual.

Even if 15% of her sample came from a more disturbed background, the majority did not. It would not be truthful to say that gay/bi/encounter people “tend” to come from such a background when the majority did not.

Conclusion:

I do not know if there is any validity to this study. I’ve requested the study and either Jim or myself will look it over. We will gladly give Dr. Wells any benefit of the doubt and should any of my presumptions based on news reports turn out to be hasty, we’ll gladly correct the situation. However, there are so many red flags all over the place that it seems unlikely.

But Dr. Wells did say something with which I agree.

Dr Wells said: “I don’t quite see how our findings feed into gay-bashing, although maybe I underestimate the ability of people to twist certain things.”

Yes, Dr. Wells, you have vastly underestimated the ability of anti-gay people to twist research to support what they wish to believe. And that was unfortunate.

Public Religion Research Institute survey shows current status of support in California

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2010

The Public Religion Research Institute released a survey today about the attitudes of Californians on gay issues. PRRI is a progressive organization and the survey was funded by strong supporters of our community, so we must be cautious to look for bias. As I believe that the language of the Survey Report lends itself to a slightly rosy translation rather than strict interpretation of the numbers, I’ll mostly focus on the results.

The methodology was a randomly selected telephone survey of 2,801 adults with additional oversamples of African Americans and Latino Protestants (this was relevant due to a desire to find statistically valid conclusions about of those populations). This is a sufficiently large sample to provide meaningful information. The results were subsequently weighted to correct for oversampling, and to allow for comparisons between categories of participants.

I’ve reviewed the questions of the poll and do not think that this is a poll which is designed to generate specific answers. However, the language leading up to some questions does, in my opinion, set up the participant to view gay rights in terms of “chances in life” and some follow up questions seem to be a bit on the persuasive rather than inquisitive side.

All that being said, here are the findings of the PRRI survey:

Q.7 Which of the following statements comes closest to your views

42% Gay couples should be allowed to marry
31% Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not marry OR
24% There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship

This seems to be very similar to the findings of the Field Poll, well within the probability range. I think we can assume that these probably represent the attitudes and perspectives of Californians.

Q.10 Do you believe that gay and lesbian couples who want to get married are trying to change the institution of marriage or join it?

39% Change it
57% Join it
4% Don’t know

This is an interesting finding. It seems that some participants believe that gay people have no ill intention towards marriage or any desire to revise it, yet they still prefer civil unions to marriage. This is a demographic that may be open to arguments about fairness and equality.

It also suggests that about 4 in 10 Californians have been receptive to the campaign of lies and villainization that enemies of equality have waged. To reach these people we must assure them that we are not trying to make marriage mean anything other than what it has always meant.

Q.12 In 2008, Californians voted on Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Did you vote “Yes” to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, or did you vote “No” on Proposition 8.

39% Yes
49% No
8% Did not vote on Proposition 8
4% Don’t know

Obviously this is not how Californians voted on Proposition 8 (it passed with 52.2% of the vote) and there are a few possibilities why. It could be that this is a bad sample. Or it could be that the language of the question made the participants embarrassed to answer the question honestly.

But I think that this is an answer that is consistent with the way in which voters respond after the fact. Surveys which ask “who did you vote for” consistently find that those polled disproportionately “recall” having voted for the winner, especially if he’s popular.

This isn’t because they are dishonest. Rather, it’s because they probably were not a firm vote and went back and forth in their mind before casting their vote. So their current thinking influences their recollection and they recall having favorable attitudes for the winner and disfavorable towards the guy they actually voted for.

In this case, however, the majority of participants who voted “recall” being on the losing side. This would only make sense if they now consider Proposition 8 to have been a bad idea. Which brings us to:

Q.15 Do you think the passage of Proposition 8 was a good thing for California, a bad thing or do you think it hasn’t really made any difference?

22% A good thing
29% A bad thing
45% Hasn’t made any difference
4% Don’t know

Slightly more say “a bad thing”, but not enough to really account for the variance between Q.12 and the actual vote. So a chunk of the “no difference” crowd would have to be generally negative towards Prop 8 in order for this survey to have any consistency at all.

And it appears that they are.

Q.16 If you had to vote on a similar ballot proposition tomorrow, would you vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal or would you vote to allow gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to get married?

45% Vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal
51% Vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married
4% Don’t know.

A review of the polling compared to the results on gay marriage issues shows that pre-election polls often have the gay supporting percentage correct but that all of the “unknowns” vote against equality. So this is a squeaker.

What follows are a few questions that I think advise us as to our future efforts. Going forward, it seems that we need to educate and inform and be diligent in challenging the lies that are regularly told by those who seek to keep us denied civil equality.

Q.26.d Sexual orientation is determined at birth

26% Completely agree
25% Mostly agree
20% Mostly disagree
21% Completely disagree
8% Don’t know

Not only do we need to educate about the evidence surrounding the etiology of sexual orientation, we need to educate about the phrasing of this question. The issue is not whether orientation is “determined at birth” but whether it is a naturally occurring phenomenon over which each of us has little or no input and that for many gay people biology plays a key role.

In other words, the issue isn’t whether there is a “gay gene” but rather whether orientation can be “caused” or whether, like handedness, it just develops.

Q.26.e Homosexual orientation can be changed

15% Completely agree
19% Mostly agree
21% Mostly disagree
37% Completely disagree
8% Don’t know

It looks like our stories and our honesty is being heard. But with 34% still buying into the “change” myth, we have a ways to go.

The survey also found that 67% mostly or completely agree that gay and lesbian relationships should be accepted by society and that 60% mostly or completely disagree with the statement that “sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is always wrong.” Additionally, 25% believe that they are more supportive of gay rights than they were five years ago while 8% think they have become less supportive.

The Survey Report has some additional analysis. For me, the fascinating parts are the comparisons of various religious participants and how church denomination, attendance, and pastoral message influences attitudes, both negatively and positively.

Field Poll: Californians support marriage at pre-8 numbers

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2010

In May 2008, before the onslaught of lies and false arguments that dominated the airwaves over the summer, the California Field poll found that 51% of Californians supported marriage equality. Those who disapproved were 42% and 7% didn’t know.

The numbers dipped in 2009 (49% – 44%), but the latest poll has them back at 2008 levels. All of which are within the margin of error.

This suggests that movement on the marriage issue (according to Field) has stalled. There also appears to be little to no movement over the past two years on the percentage that prefers marriage to civil unions when provided with multiple options: 44% marriage, 34% civil unions, 19% neither.

The bogus “couples study” is back… and this time doing more harm than ever

Timothy Kincaid

July 15th, 2010

Remember back in February when the news was all atwitter about how gay couples aren’t monogamous? Oh, gosh, it was a study, you know, in which half of the gay marriages were open!

Well, it’s back. And the reporting on Colleen Hoff’s work is no more accurate this time than it was last time. The San Francisco Chronicle – which calls non-monogamous relations “San Francisco relationships” – breathlessly declares:

In her study of gay couples, 47 percent reported open relationships. Forty-five percent were monogamous, and the remaining 8 percent disagreed about what they were.

We analyzed the claim – thoroughly – and it DID NOT support the claims. In fact, the sample was just about as far from representative of the gay community as you could get. As I said at the time:

In short, those reporting on this study got it wrong. If there is any story here, it would be that a study of San Francisco bay area gay male couples, a sample which was highly skewed to include many participants who are less likely to value monogamy and which defined “couples” to include those who have been dating as little as three months, still found that half of them set monogamy as the agreement for their relationship.

But based on the pattern of the stories and my communication with the authors, I have a new conclusion: When the news repeatedly and consistently reports conclusions that cannot possibly be determined from your data, it’s not because you’re trying to correct them. Hoff has, in all occasions I’ve seen, made broad generalizations about the nature of gay relationships – not just those in her study – that lead me to wonder if her research is little more than an attempt to provide talking points to support her presumptions.

And Hoff’s study – which does, at least, seem to have structure – now leads to press reports about a “study” which has almost no validity whatsoever.

Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears, two men in an open relationship, set out to find others who shared their values. And – surprise of all surprises - they did. They asked their buddies to participate and recruited where they socialized and, by golly, they found 86 non-monogamous, long-term (8+ years), gay male couples and (ok, here’s the shocker) the vast majority of those folks who were non-monogamous reported that they liked being non-monogamous. I suppose their next project will be to prove that those in line at Baskin Robbins like ice-cream.

And why do we know all about this non-study? Because Colleen Hoff was right there supporting them all the way:

“The ground-breaking work Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears are doing is providing important information and modeling about gay couples. The findings from their study will end up supporting gay couples for generations.”

Now I have never run across good statistics on monogamy in gay relationships. And I would not be surprised to find that statistically non-monogamy is higher; maybe it is. But I also would not be surprised by good research that its no higher at all than heterosexuals.

In fact, I have no idea whether some, many, most, or very few gay relationships are open. And neither does Colleen Hoff, Lanz Lowen or Blake Spears. Nor do any of you. It’s all just speculation based on the experiences we each have and those of the people we spend our time with.

I don’t know anything about the frequency of occurance of monogamy and non-monogamy among gay couples. But I do know someone beating an agenda when I see it. And that’s what is going on here.

And it isn’t admirable. It isn’t an honest contribution when conservative loons like Paul Cameron cook the data to get the conclusions they want. And it isn’t an honest contribution when liberals do the same thing.

Hoff, Lowen and Spears want to believe that gay men are non-monogamous. It fits their preconceptions. But they didn’t study that.

Hoff did not conduct a study of gay men to see who is monogamous; she studied how HIV-positive men negotiate communication and agreements. And Lowen and Spears did not conduct a study of gay men to see who is monogamous; they sampled non-monogamous couples to see if they liked it.

But are they reporting it that way? Hell, no! They are too busy trying to preach the joys of non-monogamy to bother to tell the truth.

And even more frustrating is that this selfish declaration of “how many gay couples are” (ignoring lesbians entirely) can do tremendous damage to our hard-fought effort to win rights and determine our own destinies. Freely speaking for all of us – with absolutely NOTHING to back it up – the Chronicle article ends with this:

Having an open partnership is not incompatible with same-sex marriage, said Spears, 59.

At least half those interviewed were married, having taken their vows during one of the two brief times when it was legally sanctioned in the city or the state.

“It’s a redefinition of marriage,” Spears said. “The emotional commitment, the closeness, all of it is there.”

Have you ever heard the claim that the “homosexual agenda” is to redefine marriage? Ever hear how “gay couples aren’t monogamous, anyway?

Anyone want to guess how long it will take for that completely fake “study” to make its way into an anti-gay commercial? Or be presented in court as evidence of why we should not be allowed to have relationships at all? Or be used by some bigoted judge to take some lesbian’s children away from her?

Daily Kos admits fraud by polling partner

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2010

What do you do when your polling partner turns out to be fabricating results?

On response might be to drop the pollster and quietly make a different partnership. In that way you could hush it up hoping to avoid embarrassment.

Daily Kos has taken a different path. Rather than try and keep it all “in house”, they have publicly announced that their polling partner committed fraud and denounced any results that Daily Kos had published.

As difficult as it has been to learn that we were victims of that fraud, our commitment to accuracy and the truth is far more important than shielding ourselves from cheap shots from the Right.

Frankly, I was a bit suspicious of some polling that was reported by Research 2000 and am not surprised at the announcement. Some of it seemed to be a bit too convenient for Daily Kos’ worldview and I assumed that push polling was happening on the part of both Research 2000 and the website.

I am delighted to be wrong about Markos Moulitsas (Daily Kos’ founder) and by taking the high road he has gained my respect.

The stupidest statistic ever

Timothy Kincaid

June 11th, 2010

Bob Stith, the Southern Baptists’ National Strategist for Gender Issues, is all giddy about getting a handful of ex-gays to come and bless the SBC’s campaign against the lives, liberty, freedom, and rights of gay men and women and transgenders. I’ll give Bob credit for trying to make the church more “loving”, but Stith on his good day is more hostile than the least tolerant United Church of Christ pastor on their worst day.

Anyway, I digress.

I was amused by a paragraph in Stith’s latest announcement:

A LifeWay Research study reports that while 100 percent of Southern Baptist pastors believe homosexual conduct is sin, 49 percent of Americans do not.

One hundred percent! Wow! That must mean it’s right.

Except… duh. They only have 100% agreement because they kick out anyone who doesn’t agree.

Some items of interest from a odd poll

Timothy Kincaid

June 7th, 2010

Last week a poll in Iowa conducted by a Des Moines television station reported that a majority of Iowans support marriage equality, a finding that appears difficult to believe. Now an oddly conducted poll from the Des Moines Register adds to the picture.

On the face of it, the polling data might seem negative. And, were this of the population as a whole, this might be quite troubling. But it’s not a poll of Iowans, it’s a polling of Republican Iowans who intend to vote in Tuesday’s primary. I have no idea why the Register didn’t get the opinions of Democrats or independents, but we’re stuck with what they gave us.

Here’s what they found:

More than three-quarters of Iowans planning to vote in Tuesday’s Republican primary say Iowans should have a chance to vote on changing the constitution specifically to ban gay marriage.

But the same consensus does not exist for ousting Iowa Supreme Court judges who voted last year to invalidate Iowa’s statutory ban on same-sex marriage.

And one-third of the poll respondents say that some Iowans have overreacted on the issue, and that gay marriage in the state is just not that big a deal.

Voter analysts will tell you that primary voters tend towards the more committed end of a party, those who feel most connected to the reasons for their registration selection. They also tend to be older, especially in a non-presidential election. So it is fair to say that “Republican primary voters” is among the more conservative polling demographics that could be selected.

And now that Iowans have lived with marriage equality for a year, 35% of Republican primary voters think that “having gay marriage in Iowa is just not that big a deal.” And that’s kind of a big deal.

Poll: majority of Iowans support same-sex marriage rights

Timothy Kincaid

June 4th, 2010

Des Moines television station KCCI has conducted a poll of Iowans asking the following question:

Now that more than a year has gone by since the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, do you favor or oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Favor – 53%
Oppose – 41%
Not Sure – 6%

I don’t know the sampling, the methodology, or margin or error. And the wording likely led to skewing the results towards the positive.

But, nevertheless, this is very very good news. And as one of the few recent polls on the issue, it deflects much of the credibility of anti-gay activists who claim that “the people” oppose equality.

The More They Get To Know Us…

Jim Burroway

May 25th, 2010

…the better these numbers look:

According to a recent Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who believe that gays and lesbians are “morally acceptable” is at an all-time high. At 52% viewing gay people favorably against 43% disproving,  this is the first time that a clear majority of Americans see gays as good since this polling began in 2001. And in even better news, this year marks the first time in which that spread blew the doors off the ±4% margin of error.

Marriage support edges up slightly

Timothy Kincaid

May 24th, 2010

Gallup, in their annual survey of support and opposition for same-sex marriage have found that support is back up to about 44% and opposition is down to 53%. These are not out of the range of findings for the past six years but are slightly more positive than the last two surveys.

Here’s what to glean from the findings:

  • A majority of Democrats (56%) and about half of Independents support marriage equality
  • Those who identify as liberal (70%) or moderate (56%) are supportive
  • Only folks in the South and Midwest and those who consider religion “very important” have majorities that oppose equality.
  • About one in four Republicans (and those who identify as “conservative”) support your right to marry. (That’s not a lot, but still don’t assume that every Republican you meet is your enemy)

This study only looks at marriage. When you add in the civil union option, we have about two thirds support.

Review of Family Research Council’s study on lesbians

Timothy Kincaid

May 24th, 2010

The Family Research Council, an avid anti-gay activist group, has released a new ‘study’ which purports to inform about the factors contributing to the sexual orientation of lesbians.

Women (aged 14-44) who have not had a homosexual sexual partner in the past year are more likely to worship at least weekly and to have grown up in intact families than those who have had a homosexual sexual partner in the past year. According to the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), 2.1 percent of women who grew up in intact married families and attend religious services at least weekly have had a homosexual sexual partner in the year prior to being asked, followed by women who grew up in other family structures and worship at least weekly (4.6 percent), those who grew up in intact married families and never worship (7.3 percent), and those who grew up in other family structures and never worship (9.5 percent).

The database selected was the National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the CDC in 2002-03 (and includes women aged 15-44). The CDC provides an easily readable abstract of sexual behavior of Americans and shines some light on FRC’s claims.

Let’s look first at FRC’s discoveries about women and church attendance. I wasn’t able to locate the NSFG stats on church attendance, but I’ll assume that they didn’t just make them up:

Let’s stop for a second to chuckle about the astonishing discovery that lesbians are less likely to currently attend church. Oh, gee, gosh, why ever could that be?

The FRC seems to think that going to church chases the gay away, that women who go to church are less likely to catch the lesbian bug, but I think that they have the cart before the horse. The answer is found in their own “related insights”:

Michele Dillon of Yale University reported that 44 percent of frequent Catholic church attendees “said that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex were wrong,” compared to 10 percent “of those who attended occasionally or never.”

I don’t find it particularly surprising that lesbians avoid the place where they are four times as likely to have “good Christians” actively seeking to make their life miserable. I’m just surprised FRC thinks anyone is so foolish as to see this from the opposite direction.

But I was surprised at a few facts.

For example, I didn’t know that over half of frequent Catholic church attendees don’t find sexual relations between two adults of the same sex to be wrong. That’s encouraging, and that was from a 1996 report.

And I also didn’t know that nearly 3% of all women who attend church weekly or monthly have had a same-sex relationship in the past year. That’s pretty impressive. As we’ll see later, that’s nearly three quarters of all lesbians, a much higher percentage than I would have guessed.

But let’s look at the more serious claim, that family structure can influence eventual orientation. Or, as FRC put it, (Catholic News Agency)

“This research further undermines the claim that homosexuality is largely genetic or biological in origin,” said Dr. Patrick F. Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at Family Research Council, and co-author of the study.

“It is clear that social factors have a significant impact on whether a woman chooses to engage in homosexual relationships,” he noted.

Let’s address, for a moment, the nonsensical language equating homosexuality and “chooses to engage”.

Supposing that there was an identifiable link between childhood family structure and “whether a woman chooses to engage in homosexual relationships”, this would not automatically say something about her sexual orientation. It might tell us something about how she responds to her attractions, desires, or longings, but it would not inform us about whether they were there.

And the FRC knows full well that it is being deceptive on this issue. No credible scientist, activist, theorist or blogger has ever claimed that how one responds to one’s attractions – that is, “whether one chooses” – is genetic or biological. When discussing homosexuality, we are discussing attractions, not choices and FRC demonstrates their inherent dishonesty by seeking to conflate these separate issues.

But let’s see if a causal relationship between family structure and same-sex female relationships can be found in the NSFG data. I’ve not recalculated FRC’s percentages, but here is their graph:

FRC sees this as two demographics, married intact (the good families) and all the rest (the bad families). But, they don’t present the data in a way that is informative.

Looking at this graph one might think that each category has equal weight and is statistically valid. And one might also assume that having been raised in a married, always intact family greatly reduced the odds of a woman “choosing to engage in homosexual relationships.” But what FRC convenient forgets to mention is what the NSFG reports as the total percentage of women who actually have had a same-sex relationship in the past year: 4.4%.

In other words, FRC is seeing significance and relevance in reporting that there was 0.4% fewer women who had same-sex relationships from “good” families than from the population as a whole.

Zero point four percent.

Now I’m not sure how FRC got to their numbers. Either the cohabiting step-family category was so small a sub-sample as to have little influence on the population as a whole or they had a little problem with their excel schedule. But in any case, four tenths of one percent variance certainly does not demonstrate a correlation, much less a causation.

And if FRC cared in the slightest about honesty, integrity, or truth they would feel shame and retract their statement. But I think there’s about a 0.4% chance of that happening.

Maryland’s exposure to marriage breeds support

Timothy Kincaid

May 11th, 2010

Maryland same-sex couples have been able to marry in neighboring District of Columbia for the past two months and have their marriages recognized by their home state. And this change has resulted in much local media and discussion.

A new Washington Post poll suggests that exposure to same-sex marriages has increased familiarity and abated the fears that Maryland residents may have had.

A clear majority of people responding to the poll — 55 percent — also say that if gays get married in another state, those unions should be considered legal in Maryland; 38 percent say the state should not recognize them. Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) in February told state agencies to begin granting married same-sex couples from elsewhere the same rights as Maryland’s heterosexual couples.

The poll, conducted May 3-6, finds that 46 percent overall favor legal same-sex marriage, 44 percent oppose it, and 10 percent have no opinion. Among registered voters, 48 percent are in favor and 43 percent are opposed.

LA Times Poll: Californians support marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

April 6th, 2010

A new LA Times/USC poll has findings similar to last month’s PPIC poll:

Q.46 Do you think that same-sex couples should be allowed to become legally married in the state of
California?

Yes, strongly ………………………………………………………………40
Yes, not so strongly …………………………………………………..12
No, not so strongly……………………………………………………….8
No, strongly………………………………………………………………..32
(Don’t know)…………………………………………………………………6
(Refuse) ……………………………………………………………………….2

Total Yes……………………………………………………………………..52
Total No ……………………………………………………………………..40

The poll claims a margin or error of about 2.6%, but in looking at the demographics, I’m not sure that this poll is exactly representative.

Majority of Californians support marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2010

CA marriage graph
For the first time, the PPIC Statewide Survey reports that a majority of Californians support same-sex marriage. 2,002 Californians were surveyed and there is a +/- 2% margin of error.

Participants were asked

“do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to be legally married?”

50% favor
45% oppose
5% I don’t know

Various demographics supported marriage equality:

64% Democrats
55% Independents
28% Republicans
55% whites
43% Latinos

This polling suggests a 6% increase in support within the past year, which is quite significant. The survey does not report what contributed to this change in thinking and it is difficult to identify what may have happened since last March that could have led to the change.

However, if I were to guess, I think it is possible that there were two counter-acting public responses to the anti-8 rallies, marches, and protests. It may be that these public demonstrations caused some voters to realize for the first time that the gay community was upset and angry about being denied equality and caused them to consider that anti-gay votes are discriminatory. There may also have been some backlash from some voters who felt that the gay community was behaving lawlessly.

Over the past year the public image of angry marches may have diminished and those upset by it may have become calmer, while the concept of inequality and unfairness raised by the marches may have germinated and resulted in increased support, yielding a net increase. This is, of course, only speculation.

Additionally, the PPIC confirmed that Californians strongly favor allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military. A total of 75% (and a majority in every demographic) agreed.

New military survey on DADT

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2010

In February, Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint, on behalf of Vet Voice Foundation, conducted a telephone survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The methodology appears to be fairly decent, though the margin of error is a bit large.

Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers. The survey reached a total of 510 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and/or Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). The survey was conducted February 8-23, 2010. Telephone numbers for the sample were generated randomly from a military sample and a radius sample drawn from military bases in the United States. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4.4 percentage points.

But I do have some concerns about the demographic breakdown. As best I can tell, it does not appear to be representative of the military as a whole. It appears to over-represent white, male, and more highly educated personnel than what I’ve been able to identify as reflective of those serving. Nevertheless, it adds to the conversation.

This sample was:

45% Republican (or leaning) v. 20% Democrat (or leaning)
19% High school education, with 44% college graduate or post graduate
79% married
36% evangelical Christian
69% white, 16% black
58% think there were gay people in their most recent unit

Of this sample,

  • 60% agree and 29% disagree with “Being gay or lesbian has little bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties.” This may be skewed by two lead up questions asking about race and gender having bearing.
  • 73% are comfortable (37% very) and 23% are uncomfortable (7% very) “in the presence of gays and lesbians?”
  • 34% favor (24% very); 36% oppose (29% very); and 30% aren’t sure about “allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military”
  • When asked to “describe your personal opinion if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military”, 73% said it would be acceptable (though 31% wouldn’t like it) and 25% said it would be unacceptable.

They also measured by age and found that “younger veterans lean toward favoring allowing gay men and lesbian women to serve openly while older veterans lean toward opposing the change, but there is little intensity in either direction.”

While I am not sure that this accurately reflects the views of our military, it does add to the growing recognition that soldiers care a lot less about the sexual orientation of their fellows than do Senators or Pentagon officials.

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