tip off
55

Public Opinion on same sex marriage

With three separate polls having been released over the last couple of months gauging public opinion on same sex marriage, it’s worth taking a squiz at how opinion has changed over the last few years, as well as breaking the results down to look at how there is a fairly wide variation on views among demographic cohorts.

First up, this is what the polling looks like going back to 2004 – the lines are the historical time series, the column charts are the polls from this year.

ssm1

Over the longer term, we’ve see support for same sex marriage increase throughout the community – however, over the last two months, something interesting may have happened.

When it comes to issue polling in Australia, there’s a substantial proportion of the population whose mental autonomy on any given issue is fairly questionable, where they believe (or at least, say they believe) whatever their position is of the party they vote for.  If a party changes its policy from supporting some particular issue to opposing it, so too does a significant chunk of the population. We witnessed that with the CPRS debate, where we saw a decent level of support for it from Liberal Party voters under Turnbull, but then  a few weeks later under Abbott’s leadership, that support collapsed.

What we’ve seen over the last few months is the issue of same sex marriage getting a much higher profile in the media and politics than usual – so I wonder if what looks to be the recent, short term decline in support is simply a function of a number of politicians being loud in their public  opposition to the idea of same sex marriage?

We can slice and dice these polls in a number of ways to see what is happening underneath the top line numbers. Firstly, we can pool all three polls to look at support by party vote:

ssmparty

We have a somewhat expected result of the ALP vote being moderately for the issue, the Coalition vote being weakly against the issue and the Greens vote being very strong on the issue. If we pool the Nielsen and Galaxy polls, we can also get some breakdowns by geography and gender:

ssmstate

Queensland is the weakest state on the issue – which goes a long way to explaining the politics involved by both sides. Regional marginal Qld seats particularly are somewhat vulnerable over the issue as they have long been among the seats in Australia most opposed to the same sex marriage.

Note too the large gender split on the issue, with men being 13 points behind women on the level of support.

Finally, it’s worth having a closer look at the Galaxy results over 2009-10 and how they changed, as they provide us with all sorts of income, age and socioeconomic cross-tabs. I’ve added the approximate margins of error for each cohort in the table below, just to give an idea of the uncertainty behind any result.

ssmcohort

What we see is that those folks less educated, older, childless, male and on lower incomes either not working or working in blue collar occupations are more likely to oppose, while those with higher education, younger, female and on higher incomes working in white collar jobs are more likely to support same sex marriage.

47

Please login below to comment, OR simply register here :



  • 1
    chinda63
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    No surprises here, really, except for the high level of support amongst those who were already married.

    I expected to see a divide here, with those (traditionally younger) voters who were unmarried in support, but those who were already married (traditionally older) would be more against – 57/61 isn’t really much of a difference. I suppose, though, the 40/31 against is more reflective of the older age cohort amongst the married mob.

    Good work again, Poss.

  • 2
    calyptorhynchus
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    “…in Australia, there’s a substantial proportion of the population whose mental autonomy on any given issue is fairly questionable…”

    Just love it!

  • 3
    SneakyBoots
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Opinion seems to be split along similar lines to the republic debate. And like the republic debate, once the specifics are on the table, I imagine support for gay marriage will fall away as the detail is discussed. Is there a way to analyse how deeply this issue is felt? I suspect a lot of the support for gay marriage is quite soft but those opposed are deeply opposed.

  • 4
    Sam Bauers
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I imagine support for gay marriage will fall away as the detail is discussed.

    You mean like whether to hold the reception at The Hilton or The Regent?

  • 5
    Fran Barlow
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    13% of Greens voters oppose Gay marriage and 4% are undecided?

    I’m genuinely shocked.

    Hmmm … something else to work on, plainly.

  • 6
    Bogdanovist
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    That doesn’t surprise me that much Fran, if anything I might have expected it to be higher than 13%. Whether they like it or not, a segment (we can debate how big it is) of the Greens vote is a vote for ‘none of the above’, rather than a positive vote for Greens policies. For instance one guy I know used to vote Democrats, then One Nation when they came along and now Greens because the other two both fell apart.

  • 7
    Yaz
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Fran,
    My thought is that some of those 13% & the 4% are LGBT supporters who would rather not partake in the sham, I mean farce, I mean sacred ceremony of marriage. I certainly would struggle to know what to answer if I were asked. I think the state should get out of any recognition of marriage at all, and leave it up to whatever religions feel the need to have a ceremony of some sort. It always seemed like a deeply unholy alliance to me, the whole state/church marriage thang. There should be a formal relationship register, if such were needed, administered by someone like Centrelink, and that’s all.

  • 8
    Fran Barlow
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Yaz said:

    I think the state should get out of any recognition of marriage at all, and leave it up to whatever religions feel the need to have a ceremony of some sort. It always seemed like a deeply unholy alliance to me, the whole state/church marriage thang. There should be a formal relationship register, if such were needed, administered by someone like Centrelink, and that’s all.

    I would strongly agree, and have said as much on a number of occasions. Let two (or more) competent adults who wish to do so register as life partners specifying as much and as little as they think warrants specification (or sign a standardised default agreement) and off you’d go.

    That said, I fail to see why any one would have any good basis as things stand to oppose a simple change providing that for the purposes of commonwealth or state law or the operation of courts the ostensible sex of the applicants shall have no bearing on the recognition of the legal validity of a marriage, and that marriage agreements may be undertaken by any two intellectually competent and freely consenting adults.

    Whether LGBT couples choose to take up the opportunity is entirely for them to decide. It seems that here as in many places, this is being treated as a positional good to be protected from encroachmment rather than a simple right attaching to all competent adult human beings.

  • 9
    Fool
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I am amazed to see how fickle and easily manipulated the Australian population can be!
    While I do believe that with age comes wisdom; this is obviously very much countered by the negative anti-gay marriage position of the older cohort (50+). To me it seems that they have not been able to break away from their outdated socialisation! It appears that even the cohorts that have missed out on higher education have more understanding about social equality and justice. I find it very worrying, with Australia’s aging population, that the older cohort are so backward. Then again what are we to expect: this is the same generation that had the opportunity to save the planet and provide a decent future for their offspring YET just decided to let a flawed system continue! This poll just affirms to me that once you retire you should no longer get to vote on any issue that affects or influences humanities future. It is no wonder that we will not see any action on climate change or resource use until this cohort has died off.
    Mmmm, again we also see the inability of politicians to actually follow the will of the people!

  • 10
    JP
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    @Sneakyboots – 6

    Firstly, with the republic there were details of how the head of state were to be appointed on which people were divided. It just won’t play out like that with same-sex marriage because there are no details to differ on – it’s a one line amendment of the Marriage Act.

    Secondly, I suspect that support for same-sex marriage is hardening up very quickly. It’s becoming seen as this generation’s top-line civil rights issue, just as feminism was for the last generation, and removing racial discrimination was for the generation before that. Political parties who continue to defy the will of the people on this issue WILL lose votes over it, especially in states with optional preferential voting, where letting one’s preference flow to a party whose views one finds intolerable is simply not required. (And yes, I know it’s a federal issue, but it will leak over for sure.)

  • 11
    JP
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    As far as the numbers go, the number in all that that I’m most surprised by (but shouldn’t be) is the very high level of support from those with children. That’s really good to see.

  • 12
    Darren Laver
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Firstly, with the republic there were details of how the head of state were to be appointed on which people were divided. It just won’t play out like that with same-sex marriage because there are no details to differ on – it’s a one line amendment of the Marriage Act.

    Strongly agree.

    As far as the numbers go, the number in all that that I’m most surprised by (but shouldn’t be) is the very high level of support from those with children. That’s really good to see.

    Yes, I would see this simply as most parents wanting the best happiness for their children.
    They would hate to think a government would restrict their child’s eventual right to marry a person of their choosing, regardless of sex.

  • 13
    Kevin Bonham
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Why is it that childless people are less strongly supportive of gay marriage than people with children? That seems a slightly curious result to me. Especially since childless people are more likely young, unmarried, etc.

  • 14
    Malcolm Street
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Kevin – perhaps because childless people don’t have to cope with the possibility that one of their offspring may be gay.

  • 15
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Why is it that childless people are less strongly supportive of gay marriage than people with children?

    Could be due to a low incidence of childbearing opportunities for less well educated, unemployed, older men, Kevin – in other words a correlation mediated by some other aspect of more direct relevance.

  • 16
    Chokyi Nyingpo
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I feel that Yaz and Fran are picking up on others truer feelings/thought bubbles of, “What exactly IS marriage?”

    I would hazard a guess that as an institution, in the historical, traditional man-woman-produce-legal-children thing, it is on the way out.

    Long gone, thank goodness, are the days of “bastards” being an embarrassment or legal impediment to a family’s future; today’s “defacto” relationships have put paid to that. The legal definition of marriage, it seems to me, should simply be redefined to, as Yaz says, “…a formal relationship register, if such were needed, administered by someone like Centrelink…”

    and, as Fran says, …”why any one would have any good basis as things stand to oppose [such] a simple change…” is also beyond me.

    Perhaps this is what the question that was asked should be? Redefine marriage and not worry about whether it should include same sex or not. Or are we not yet ready as a nation to discuss such weightier issues but still feel it necessary to pander to, let’s face it, really very loud, and increasingly closed-minded minorities ?

  • 17
    Misanthropic Dave
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Kevin (18) – Agree with Rod.
    I think a lot of parents might be anti-gay marriage until they a child effected.
    Once the inequality becomes ‘real’ to them – they change their opinion.

  • 18
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    It’s ironic that there is an inverse relationship between heterosexual support for marriage and same-sex support for marriage. The last few decades have seen a rise in hetero couples preferring to remain unmarried and use the somewhat confusing term “partner” (business partner? friend?) to describe their spouse. During the same period, as hetero support for marriage declines, same-sex support for it skyrockets. I don’t understand this – why aren’t same-sex couples happy with the trendy term “partner” as well? Do they really think making it “marriage” will make the relationship any more permanent?

  • 19
    don
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Fool@11:

    This poll just affirms to me that once you retire you should no longer get to vote on any issue that affects or influences humanities future.

    I am retired. I am over 67. I am heterosexual, and have been happily married to the same lovely woman for nigh on 40 years. I have highly intelligent, successful and well educated children.

    I am in favour of gay marriage. I am in favour of a stringent carbon tax, or similar method of cutting greenhouse gases. I am in favour of solar hot water heating and PV on every roof, just as it is in Germany. I want Australia to be a republic. I fly Australia’s flag on my flagpole, because that is the only one we have, but I hate the union jack in the corner. I can’t stand the national anthem, it should be Waltzing Matilda.

    I am in favour of a mining tax which gets something back for Australia from the greedy robber mining barons.

    I find your comments offensive in the extreme.

  • 20
    JP
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    @samistapol

    I imagine many same-sex couples will opt for defacto relationships for the same reason opposite-sex couples do. So what? As long as some can opt for marriage, as some opposite-sex couples do, there’s no rights issue.

    But as long as the government offers the choice to some couples and not to others, then it’s a clear case of discrimination. Even opponents of same-sex marriage recognise this, but simply argue that in this case the discrimination is justified. That’s a view that will in time become as socially acceptable as my elderly Austrian relatives’ anti-Semitism, I believe, as the rest of us move on to a fairer society.

  • 21
    lenwx
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    I am deeply suspicious of polling done on behalf of pressure groups. Galaxy 2007 was commissioned by GetUp! Galaxy 2009 and 2010 were commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality (AME) and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
    AME in their fact sheet claim that all polls except the first (Newspoll 2004) asked the same question: “Do you agree or disagree same-sex couples should be able to marry?”

    But that is clearly not so. What AME don’t mention in the fact sheet is that the 2010 Galaxy poll has this introduction to the question:

    “A number of countries allow same-sex couples to marry. These include Argentina, Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa and Spain, as well as parts of the United States and Mexico”.

    That is close to push polling in my view and explains the higher results obtained by Galaxy over Essential Media Report

    Galaxy 2009 had a similar approach. I don’t know about Galaxy 2007 because it is no longer available from the GetUp! web site.

    Newspoll 2004 introduced their question this way:

    “Thinking now about gay marriages, that is same sex marriages either between two Men, or between two women. Are you personally in favour or against same sex Couples being given the same rights to marry as couples consisting of a man and a Woman?”

    Essential Media Report has this question:

    Do you think people of the same sex should or should not be allowed to marry?

    Nielsen’s exact question is not readily available. It talks about “legalising same sex marriages“ which might not be understood in the same way as allowing same-sex couples to marry since there is a separate issue as to whether same sex couples legally married overseas ought to be recognized here.

    Polling for pressure groups invariably gives the answers they are looking for. There are so many ways to word a question. Also the lead-in to the question is important.
    These polls are mostly unreliable and certainly not comparable to other polling.

  • 22
    JP
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Those questions are pretty similar, really. The truly different way of asking the question is to turn it around and ask if people support the government prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married.

    Nate Silver of 538 has showed that when the question is asked this way, support for same-sex marriage goes up markedly.

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/06/how-to-get-63-of-americans-to-support.html

    So really, all the questions from the Australian polls are termed in ways that are unfavourable to getting a higher result for same-sex marriage support, and to describe them as “close to push polling” is, frankly, a stretch.

  • 23
    lenwx
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    JP refers to Nate Silver of 538 has showed that when the question is asked in a different way, support for same-sex marriage goes up markedly.

    In the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, respondents were asked whether the decision to marry should strictly be a private decision between the two people who want to marry (or if) the government has the right to pass laws to prohibit or allow such marriages between two people who are of the same sex.

    That is a different question altogether.

    Those promoting same sex marriages are not at all prevented from making a private decision to enter a relationship. As Yaz pointed out:

    i]There should be a formal relationship register, if such were needed, administered by someone like Centrelink, and that’s all.[/i

    And Fran responded:

    i]I would strongly agree, and have said as much on a number of occasions. Let two (or more) competent adults who wish to do so register as life partners specifying as much and as little as they think warrants specification (or sign a standardised default agreement) and off you’d go.[/i

    The problem is same sex unions want to redefine marriage. Although some modern versions of dictionaries have changed the definition, the majority of people and the courts will hold to the long held view. So I do not really know if any of the questions are really meaningful.

    Having said that, my argument had more to do with the issue of analysing pressure group poll results. My point was unlike other polls (e.g. voting intention) mostly the polls conducted for pressure groups are slanted to give a favourable result.

  • 24
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Lenwx, for what it’s worth the last three polling questions were:

    Galaxy
    A number of countries allow same-sex couples to marry. These include Argentina, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa and Spain, as well as parts of the United States and Mexico. Do you agree or disagree that same-sex couples in Australia should be able to marry?

    Nielsen:
    Do you support or oppose legalising marriage between same-sex couples?

    Essential Report
    Do you think people of the same sex should or should not be allowed to marry?

  • 25
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Also Lenwx – it doesn’t matter who actually commissions a poll from a reputable pollster, the underlying methodology doesn’t change. Galaxy (to use an example) doesn’t fluff the numbers because GetUp! happens to be paying the bill.

    Pollsters that try that caper on don’t last as pollsters very long.

  • 26
    JP
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    lenwx:

    The problem with the idea that individuals might enter a private marriage-like contract is twofold.

    Firstly, why should a same-sex couple have to go pay lawyers by the hour to draw up a contract when opposite-sex couples can just go to the registry office, fill out a form and pay a small fee?

    Secondly, and far more importantly, marriage as it stands is not a two-party contract, but a three-party contract between two individuals and the state. No matter how many lawyers you pay in private you can not get an equivalent contract without the state’s involvement. A case in point: a male friend of mine fell in love with a Spanish woman, and they decided they wanted to live together. Visa rules meant that they could not do so for more than three months at a time, which they did for a time, alternating as being (in the eyes of the law) tourists in each others’ countries. When they decided to marry, this allowed them to actually buy a home and live together in it, due to residency rules for spouses. No private contract you draw up can deliver that outcome, and so if my friend had fallen in love with a man, they would still be prevented from establishing a long-term shared home.

    On one hand you’re arguing (wrongly , as it happens) that the benefits of marriage are already available to same-sex couples, and on the other that it’s somehow imperative that they not be able to access those benefits by attending a registry office like opposite-sex couples. It seems like you’re happy for same-sex couples to be treated similarly to opposite-sex married couples, as long as you get your petty way to make it as difficult and expensive for them as possible. Why is that?

  • 27
    senior
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Maybe they should rephrase the question to;
    Do you think society should accept that homosexuals wish to take advantage of the laws and traditions of marriage that have forever been strictly the union of a man and a woman ?

    Also instead of conducting ‘polls’ on Oxford st or Commercial rd why don’t the ‘polsters’ ask people on the streets of Goulburn, Bendigo and Tamworth what they think about homosexual relationships, but I suppose there just uneducated rural peasants aren’t they, that have no idea how to survive or whats good for the country.
    Ask every person in the country and it’ll be more like 20% for, 80% against.

    I don’t know what will end humanity first, the spread of aids and lack of reproduction by homosexuals or the greenies convincing the government to turn off the power stations so you freeze to death or not be able to afford the power even it were on due to some climate tax scam.

  • 28
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Senior went:

    Also instead of conducting ‘polls’ on Oxford st or Commercial rd why don’t the ‘polsters’ ask people on the streets of Goulburn, Bendigo and Tamworth what they think about homosexual relationships

    They do – every poll. It’s a geographically balanced sample representative of the wider Australian population according to the census.

    Welcome to the public opinion reality of your fellow citizen, Senior.

  • 29
    JimmyDoyle
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Senior,

    With due respect you are so blinded by your own bigotry, as well as that evident chip on your shoulder, that you have no regards for the facts.

    To paraphrase your argument, you assert that “homosexuals” are trying redefine marriage. Well, you ignore that marriage has been redefined several times in the past. Interracial marriage was illegal in the United States until Loving v. Virginia threw that out. For decades, American slaves were not able to marry, because they were viewed as ‘property’ and a marriage would confer human characteristics, not to mention a legal identity to them, and therefore complicate, and ultimately reduce, their commercial value.

    Up until the 1970s, a married woman, COULD NOT take out a bank loan without her husband’s approval. In the 18th century married women did not have a legal identity. Once they were married, they ceased to exist as a human being, a true “union of the flesh”. It did not matter whether rape or abuse happened because they were married, and therefore the woman did not exist. Before that women were considered property, not human beings. That view is no longer acceptable in today’s society, and the law has changed accordingly. The Family Law Act 1975 recognised that a woman’s contribution to the marriage was just as great as the man’s, and finally allowed the woman to take her fair share upon divorce, instead of forcing her to stay in the relationship for fear of poverty.

    Additionally, you also assert that marriage was always between one man and one woman. Well, this is simply not true. You need not go any further than the Old Testament of the Bible, where polygany, that is marriage between one men and several women, was not only encouraged, but was essentially the only form of marriage practiced in Ancient Israeli society. Polygamy has been practiced worldwide for centuries, and it is only in the last 500-1000 or so years that it has truly been stamped out in Western society.

    So just as the innate humanity of women, African-Americans and interracial couples has been recognised, so too should gays and lesbians be accorded the same respect and dignity.

    Here endeth my rant.

  • 30
    KF
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Firstly, well said JimmyDoyle!

    Secondly, Senior I simply fail to comprehend the arrogance that surrounds the process of not allowing persons of the same sex (preferences) the same ‘rights’ that hetrosexuals are availed. Whether it be with regards to a celebration of a life union, superannuation, equal human rights, etc.

    I would (if you can) like for you to place yourself into a situation where you are told that you are unable to have a recognised celebration of unity between two loving, consentual adults. Were you married – do you have friends who are married – do you have children who are or will marry – why not tell them they are unable to wed?

    Are all who wed expected to produce an offspring – as according to the religious requirements of a marriage? Does that make hetro couples, who choose not to have children, a reason for invalidation?

    Same sex partners are simply that – they prefer the same sex. For some obscure reason some of the hetro people believe that all ‘gays’ will force themselves upon any unsuspecting ‘straight’ person they come across. How ignorant.

    My sister is gay – always has been – she doesn’t breathe fire, doesn’t accost innocents, doesn’t sexually corrupt the young – just quite normal really. Yet – she (is now over 50 years of age) is not ‘game’ enough to hold her partners hand when in public areas (partner of 15 odd years I may add). They were vilified at the last home they owned, by the neighbours, who would throw full cans of drink at them, whilst yelling, ‘dykes’, ‘lesos’ and other more degenerative terms. My sister and her partner had to sell and move.

    I work within the aged care arena and I must tell you that there is not much that is more saddening then seeing an elder, who is afraid to ‘be themselves’ for fear of bullying, misunderstanding and exclusion. Our elderly have enough to worry about, they at least deserve the right to be assured that they will not be further marginalised simply by being themselves or needing to be forced ‘back into the closet’.

    Now I am not sure about you Senior, however I would think that being unable to go into my back yard, being screamed abuse at and having to sell and move, not feeling safe to be able to hold hands in public – let alone a public kiss!, would be a violation of my human rights – at the end of the day, it does not matter one iota if you like or love someone of the same sex – it matters that you are a human and human equality is deserved – just like ‘we’ would expect.

  • 31
    GeeWizz
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    You’ve made a mistake in this post by assuming most Australians CARE about Gay Marriage as an issue.

    There are two small groups who could give a flying stuff about the topic:

    1. The looney leftwing who will always vote Greens and preference Labor
    2. People of religious faith who may vote Labor and who may change their vote to Libs on this topic and this topic alone.

    Everyone else couldn’t care less whether they are supporters or not. In other words, this is a vote loser for Labor because the Greenies will always vote for them no matter what, but the religious followers will change their vote to Libs on this issue.

    Hence why Labor won’t touch the issue with a barge pole.

  • 32
    JP
    Posted December 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    It would do Labor a power of good, actually, not to be seen as a party scared to lose the votes of bigots (whether on this issue, or asylum seekers, or any other). Unfortunately, they are.

  • 33
    Kevin Bonham
    Posted December 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Although I totally disagree with almost everything else lenwx said, I do agree that the wording of Galaxy 2010 is suss:

    A number of countries allow same-sex couples to marry. These include Argentina, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa and Spain, as well as parts of the United States and Mexico. Do you agree or disagree that same-sex couples in Australia should be able to marry?

    The question contains unnecessary information that presents only a partial view of the issue. That is, it tells the respondent that many countries allow same-sex couples to marry, and it doesn’t tell the respondent that many other countries don’t, or which countries they are. If the respondent is a sucker for an argument from conformity then that presentation of selected info makes them more likely to say they support gay marriage.

    I completely support gay marriage, to the degree that I consider any nation that doesn’t allow it to be unacceptably illiberal whatever the views of its public, and I believe that marriage laws that allow different-sex marriage and not same-sex marriage should be constitutionally disallowed.

    What I don’t support is dodgy polls commissioned by activist groups – even on issues I completely agree with. The tactic seen in this commissioned poll is exactly the same to what frequently occurs in environmental polling. On issues like the Bell Bay pulp mill or oldgrowth logging, a raft of poll results builds up and is used to argue that all the numerous polls show such-and-such, but nobody realises virtually all the polls included have been methodically suspicious.

    Possum says that the “underlying methodology” from “reputable pollsters” doesn’t change because of who is paying the bill. My experience is that when it comes to these sorts of issue polls, the method does change in that the appearance of potentially suspect preambles becomes more common. Perhaps these preambles are supplied by the clients but if the polling companies wanted their reputations to be absolutely perfect then they would refuse to accept them and insist on strictly neutral wording. However, while pollsters who cook the numbers through data fabrication will go down in a screaming heap very quickly (some fine examples of this in the US recently!) the use of slanting preambles gets far less scrutiny. This is especially so as it tends to occur on issues for which there are few reliable polls. I would personally have excluded the Galaxy poll from my sample, or heavily disclaimed it, if I was attempting an analysis on this question.

    By the way, the term “push polling” is often misused in this sort of discussion. A push poll occurs when someone pretends to be conducting a poll in order to cause people to believe something they might otherwise not have considered to be true. The polling data are basically ignored because the main aim of the poll is negative campaigning.

    With the sort of activist exercise we see here, which might be called “skew polling”, the information given may or may not be strictly accurate, but the purpose of the poll isn’t to brainwash the respondent, but to generate misleading results. Misleading results have three functions:

    * they can be used to encourage the minority into thinking they’re a smaller minority than they are, which may cause some minority members to reconsider their view and others to lose morale and stop fighting
    * they can be used to make politicians think the public view is too overwhelmingly one way to be resisted
    * they can be used to gain media publicity which gives the organisation an opportunity to repeat its message on the issue

    Oh, and GeeWizz, you are wrong in saying that only the loonie lefties and the religious care about this subject. As one who is almost as opposed to your group 1 as to your group 2, I can say by counterexample that your “everyone else” is just false. And this is an issue that influences my vote, even though I am not personally affected by it in any way.

  • 34
    JP
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Meh, I can’t see the problem with providing context so that people give a more informed opinion. The countries listed are merely listed without approving or disapproving language, and I think it’s reasonable to expect that most people would understand that those countries are not all the countries in the world, and that the others do not allow same-sex marriage, without listing all 180-odd of them, and that a change in the Australian law would make us about the 10th nation to allow same-sex marriage (which may be a positive to some, and a negative to others).

    Perhaps listing them has an effect: people may think, for example, that if a country generally not regarded as ultra-progressive such as South Africa or Mexico (or the US!) can do it, then we should not be lagging behind. Or they may think: Well, countries like Britain and France don’t, so there’s no rush. Or whatever. Such interpretations come from the respondent, not the question, which seems so completely neutral to me that my first response to claims it is biased would be “Which way?”

    But yes, as another not directly affected, it’s one of a few issues that determines my vote, mainly because of a personal aversion to politicians who talk a progressive talk, but don’t walk the walk. It’s an important issue partly because it (along with many other issues) starkly emphasises that the modern ALP and the modern Coalition are effectively occupying the same political ground, and neither are a credible alternative to the other as a result.

  • 35
    lenwx
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Whilst Kevin Bonham says he disagrees with most I say, he has understood the point I was making.

    And I agree with much of what Kevin said:

    "What I don’t support is dodgy polls commissioned by activist groups – even on issues I completely agree with. The tactic seen in this commissioned poll is exactly the same to what frequently occurs in environmental polling."

    Take this as an example (please, don’t see this as changing the debate to climate change – this post, as was my first one, is about polling by activist groups):

    The Climate Institute commissioned Auspoll to survey attitudes to Climate change.
    http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/images/reports/climateofthenation_august2010.pdf

    They found that only 8% considered climate change the most important issue and only 40% considered it in the top 5 concerns. That isn’t going to wear it for the Climate Institute who reported in the 2008 Auspoll survey that 89% of Australians were concerned about climate change.

    The new strategy (it is not clear who proposed it):

    “Our research shows that disaggregating climate change from issues such as health, pollution and sustainability leads to a fragmented picture of true concern, as many consider the issues linked.”

    From here on in, the questions referred to pollution. One of the most publicised results in the media was the question whether the levels of pollution were safe for our children. Not surprisingly 92% consider pollution (think chemical spills, polluted rivers and seas, factory exhausts) is not acceptable. The only surprising thing is that 8% think it is acceptable. And so it went on: 86% say that business has a responsibility to reduce pollution.70% support putting a price on pollution.

    The 2008 survey was all about climate change; the 2010 report was all about pollution.

    “These results are dramatic and the message is crystal clear to all parties – you need a credible plan to reduce Australia’s pollution and tackle climate change,” Climate Institute CEO Mr Connor said.

    Pollution yes, Mr Connor – but climate change? Well, Mr Connor, you didn’t ask.

    There you have the consequence of pressure groups commissioning reputable polling companies to get the results that suit.

  • 36
    Kevin Bonham
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Meh, I can’t see the problem with providing context so that people give a more informed opinion.

    But in that case you are not measuring a representative sample of public opinion. One of the things about public opinion is that much of it is uninformed and many of the views people out there hold are because they don’t know all the facts. If you make your respondents’ opinions more informed by giving them information that many potential respondents would not have, then you are rendering your own sample unrepresentative and invalidating your own poll.

  • 37
    Ron
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    “Meh, I can’t see the problem with providing context so that people give a more informed opinion.”

    you would if context is phased as anti gay marriage ,
    and further even absence of any context can possible affect results on a given Poll Only issue peoples should never Q is repute Pollsters accuracy but I’ve seen such foolishnes

  • 38
    JP
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I’d object to a leading question whether it was pro- or anti-.

    But Galaxy’s introduction is a) verifiably factual, and b) neutral.

    As I said above, pointing out the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in only a tiny number of jurisdictions worldwide could be interpreted as having an anti- bias as easily as it could be seen as having a pro- bias for pointing out that others have made this change already.

    KB, as for “invalidating your own poll”, this isn’t a poll to predict a vote, just to gauge opinion. The information given is no more an indicator of bias than asking whether people prefer Gillard or Abbott as Prime Minister, a wording which also includes the factual information that Gillard and Abbott lead the two major parties, which some respondents would not have recalled if unprompted.

  • 39
    Bellistner
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    as the detail is discussed.

    What details? It’s two people with the same types of genitals gaining all that couples with opposite genitals already have. Last i checked, discrimination based on gender of sexual choice was illegal.

  • 40
    Bellistner
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    s / of / or

  • 41
    Kevin Bonham
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    KB, as for “invalidating your own poll”, this isn’t a poll to predict a vote, just to gauge opinion. The information given is no more an indicator of bias than asking whether people prefer Gillard or Abbott as Prime Minister, a wording which also includes the factual information that Gillard and Abbott lead the two major parties, which some respondents would not have recalled if unprompted.

    I think that’s a very inaccurate analogy, because in the Galaxy case the voter was provided with a partial list of countries that allow gay marriage but not with a list of countries that do not, or even with the explicit information that there are any countries that do not. But in the case of a preferred PM poll the voter is provided with equal information relating to both sides.

    So a closer analogy for a preferred Prime Minister poll would be something like:

    “Julia Gillard is the leader of the Labor Party and the current Prime Minister. Who do you prefer as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard or her opponent?”

    The question in that form does not state that there is an Opposition party, let alone who its leader is, just as the Galaxy question on gay marriage does not state that there are nations that do not allow gay marriage, let alone which nations those are or how many of them there are.

    Jokes about Abbott being perhaps better off not named aside, this poll wording would draw a different response. Firstly because it has emphasised an argument for Gillard remaining in the job, namely that she is there already. Secondly because it does not say anything about who her opponent is, or what his claim to the office is. A very small proportion of respondents wouldn’t even know who the current Leader of the Opposition was and might therefore answer Gillard for that reason alone.

    Another difference is that for a preferred Prime Minister poll there is a reason for asking the voter to choose between the two leaders, and that is that you want to know who the voter prefers between those two leaders, and you only want the voter to be unsure having considered a head-to-head between those two. You don’t want a smorgasboard poll of every politician who a voter might want in the job. If the poll just asks who your preferred PM is, you’ll get more respondents naming candidates other than those two and who aren’t even in the mix, and that’s not the purpose of the poll. (Not that preferred PM is a useful indicator anyway.) But for a gay marriage poll there is no reason for providing the preamble and no reason not to just have a straight for-or-against.

    Providing selective information at the start of the poll is not neutral even if the information itself is completely factual. Not only might the respondent not even know that info and have their response pushed in a certain direction by knowing it, but even if the respondent already knows it, they may still respond differently depending on what information they’re reminded of at the time.

    As I said above, pointing out the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in only a tiny number of jurisdictions worldwide could be interpreted as having an anti- bias as easily as it could be seen as having a pro- bias for pointing out that others have made this change already.

    But the question doesn’t even point that out. It says that a number of nations allow same-sex marriage and then gives examples. It doesn’t say that that list is actually almost exhaustive (omitting only Iceland, Belgium and Sweden) and if anything it might give the reader the false impression that there are many more and that those named are but a small selection.

  • 42
    JP
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    No question is 100% neutral, but seriously your entire post reads like you’re clutching at one straw after another. You’ve said the question is unacceptably biased, and now you’re trying to fit an argument to your pre-conceived conclusion.

    The question stated “a number of countries” allow same-sex marriage. “A number of” means “several” (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/a_number_of ) and “several” means “Consisting of a number more than two but not very many.” (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/several )

    So the list given should be interpreted by anyone with a basic command of English as being almost exhaustive, and not including most countries not named.

    Of course you can go on to argue that some people don’t know what “a number of” means, but really, that would be a stretch too far – it’s not exactly an obscure phrase used only by the intelligentsia, is it?

    For sure the question influences the response, but the question “do you think Australia should allow same-sex marriage as a number of countries have done?” seems to be the pertinent question. And it’s not exactly as if there’s a stealth element – the question is published verbatim alongside the number of people who agreed or disagreed with it as it was put. Do you really mean to say that you firmly believe that this question overstated support for same-sex marriage? You really believe that any opponent of same-sex marriage in Australia would say they supported it due to this particular question wording? Pull the other one, it plays a tune.

  • 43
    Kevin Bonham
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    No question is 100% neutral, but seriously your entire post reads like you’re clutching at one straw after another. You’ve said the question is unacceptably biased, and now you’re trying to fit an argument to your pre-conceived conclusion.

    Unsubstantiated twaddle. And if I really was doing so on such a scale (and you knew it) you would be able to refute far more of my post than devoting so much of yours to a single and relatively minor point, on which I don’t think you are correct anyway.

    The question stated “a number of countries” allow same-sex marriage. “A number of” means “several” (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/a_number_of ) and “several” means “Consisting of a number more than two but not very many.” (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/several )

    Firstly, the obligatory nitpick – you are using an unreliable source there – the dictionary arm of Wikipedia, which anyone can edit. (Actually I’m not that impressed with online dictionaries at all, the better end of the paper market tends to be higher quality in my opinion, but they are a dying breed.)

    But even if we accept the above definitions exactly, it provides little hope of understanding what “not very many” means in the context of a subset of the set of nations. Is 15 out of 200-ish “not very many”? 20? 30? 40? I don’t think any dictionary will tell you. It’s subjective, quite aside from any slippages of nuance that might occur when you are defining a word by two layers of definition. So when you say:

    So the list given should be interpreted by anyone with a basic command of English as being almost exhaustive, and not including most countries not named.

    … I am not even remotely convinced. Some respondents may think “a number of” really means “hardly any” while others will likely think that if they are told there are “a number of” cases, and then given seven names and two partial ones, there could be a few dozen.

    Indeed, without my pollster-preamble bulldust-detector enabled, I would not interpret “a number of” the way that you do in this context. So apparently, on your terms, I lack a basic command of English. I do hope you will inform those employers who have employed me as an editor of this deficiency, so they can retrospectively revoke my employment. ;)

    For sure the question influences the response, but the question “do you think Australia should allow same-sex marriage as a number of countries have done?” seems to be the pertinent question.

    Why is there any need to include “as a number of countries have done?” at all. How does it improve the accuracy of measurement of the respondent’s current opinion on whether same-sex marriage should be legalised in any way? If “as a number of countries have done?” is reasonable then would you be happy with “as the great majority of countries have not done” instead? It’s just as factual after all.

    Do you really mean to say that you firmly believe that this question overstated support for same-sex marriage?

    Yep. I think it is extremely likely that the way the question was asked resulted in some overstatement of the pro-gay-marriage response compared to those polls that did not include such preambles. The various poll results themselves are consistent with this, although they alone can’t prove it. I don’t think the degree of overstatement would be massive (very likely much less than 10 points) but it is enough to make me dismiss this poll as useless, given that we have two recent polls on the same issue from other reputable posters that aren’t tainted by the use of an unnecessary and suspicious preamble. I consider the 2010 Nielsen and ER polls to be a much more reliable indicator of where popular sentiment is really at, the Nielsen one probably more so as it has a lower undecided rate.

    You really believe that any opponent of same-sex marriage in Australia would say they supported it due to this particular question wording? Pull the other one, it plays a tune.

    By definition a staunch opponent wouldn’t. But not everybody who answers yes or no to opinion poll questions has a strongly held or deeply considered view of the issue. You implicitly recognised this in #27 when you approvingly cited Nate Silver’s work showing that there appears to be a difference in response based on whether the issue is framed as an issue of the right of same sex couples to marry or as an issue of the right of governments to stop them. And that’s not even really a difference in what information is provided about the issue, just a difference in the way the role of government is described, and one on which Silver says that it’s quite debatable (in the American context) which way of asking is “correct”.

  • 44
    JP
    Posted December 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    More straw clutching, I see, KB, but I’ll respond to one non-straw-clutch.

    You ask if I’d be just as happy with a question that asked if Australia should legalise same sex marriage even though a vast majority of countries have not done so, on the grounds that that is equally factual, and quite simply: yes, I would.

    I’m not interested in which question that gives the highest possible support, I’m interested in having questions that find out what people’s opinions are as accurately as possible. I think that questions that make explicit the facts of the issue they’re asking about are superior to questions that let a possibly uninformed respondent give their opinion on their possibly different interpretation of the issue – that’s just adding white noise for no reason, as I see it.

    You seem to think there are people that would answer “yes” the question “should we follow the Netherlands, Canada, etc and legalise same-sex marriage” who might answer “no” to a question without preamble, possibly because they think we’d be the first in the world to do so. Given that the second scenario (us acting first) does not relate to a situation that actually exists in the real world, I’m totally uninterested in people’s opinion on it.

    Put another way: if people’s idea of the worldwide state of same-sex marriage law is so far from reality that hearing an accurate description would change their opinion, then I’m more interested in their opinion that they’ve based on a statement of how things actually are in the world I live in, than the different opinion they previously held on what Australia should do in some parallel universe with different facts.

8 Trackbacks

  1. ...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by rodneycruise, Wendy Rawley. Wendy Rawley said: Public Opinion on same sex marriage: With three separate polls having been released over the last couple of mont… http://bit.ly/h9xG4u [...

  2. ...] See the article here: Views on gay marriage: from 2004-now [...

  3. ...] courtesy of Possum’s Pollytics. Filed under Uncategorized ← Assange v The World LikeBe the first to like this [...

  4. ...] Possum Commitatus over at Pollytics.com gives perhaps the best summary of the latest same-sex marriage polls: [...

  5. ...] marriage will not be affected one little bit if gay marriage is legally recognised. As Pollytics points out, regional, marginal seats on Queensland seem to be most against gay marriage as are Western Sydney [...

  6. ...] Public Opinion on same sex marriage – Pollytics [...

Please login below to comment, OR simply register here :



Womens Agenda

loading...

Smart Company

loading...

StartupSmart

loading...

Property Observer

loading...