The Trib spins their own poll in an odd way

Timothy Kincaid

August 16th, 2010

Rex Huppke, writing in the Chicago Tribune, has an article today about a Chicago area poll they conducted on same sex marriage. I can’t find the poll results themselves, but the way they report it is downright peculiar.

They start and end with how immoral some find same-sex relationships, but their numbers – when they show them – don’t back that up. But even the numbers seem to be elusive.

Look at paragraph two:

Young, of Oak Lawn, says his opinions on homosexuality are grounded in his Christian faith, but his willingness to support gay marriage puts him in the minority among Chicago-area suburbanites. In a recent Tribune/WGN poll, 46 percent of suburban residents said they oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, while 40 percent approve and 14 percent have no opinion.

OK. Now look at paragraph six:

The overall opinion on legalizing same-sex marriage, when city respondents are factored in, is split: 42 percent oppose it, 42 percent support it and 15 percent have no opinion. The Market Shares Corp. telephone poll of 800 male and female heads of household from the six-county Chicago area has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

They tell us that suburbanites don’t like gay marriage so much, but that when city residents are included, the response is split. But look what’s missing.

Clearly – though the Trib doesn’t tell us so – the math requires that city residents split the other way; more city residents have to approve of marriage equality than disapprove. But since the Trib decided not to share that fact, we don’t know by what extent.

You would think that “Chicago residents support gay marriage” would be an interesting headline. Or at least worthy of making the story.

And the three examples that the Trib ran with to share the residents’ perspective: One supports civil unions but not marriage (but only as a live and let live idea), one opposes both marriage and civil unions, and the sole supporter of marriage thinks that same-sex relationships are immoral. Not a single example was given of those who think that same-sex relationships are a good thing.

If 42% of the area’s residents support marriage, you’d think that maybe the author could find one of them to interview. It’s odd, Huppke has written a number of articles that address gay issues and he doesn’t seem to have a history of animosity towards the gay community.


August 16th, 2010

No, 42%+42%+15%=99% What you have here is that all tree values have been rounded downward. Not a problem, just what it is.


August 16th, 2010

The Chicago numbers are buried in this video:,0,2611162.story


marriage equality support
(support% vs oppose%)

42% vs 42%

47% vs 35%

40% vs 46%

statewide (2005)
39% vs 48%

civil unions support

54% vs 32%

53% vs 29%

54% vs 33%

statewide (2005)
53% vs 36%

2005 statewide source:

Timothy Kincaid

August 16th, 2010


If population A opposes same sex marriage and population A+B is evenly split, then population B must support marriage.

Timothy Kincaid

August 16th, 2010


Thank you. At 47% to 35%, the City’s pretty supportive.

Willie Hewes

August 17th, 2010

Maybe he’s doing something else. The people interviewed oppose gay and lesbian relationships on morality reasons, but the guy he opened with is reasonable: “I think it’s wrong but it’s not my business.”

Getting people to the “I think it’s wrong but it’s not my business” point is easier than getting them to the “It’s not wrong” point, so maybe the writing is trying to invite those opposed to that position without scaring them off by being all pro-gay at them.

But then it’s hard to see why the last point is the “bad for the children” objection. The last point in an article is best remembered by readers.

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