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Religious Tolerance logo

Introduction: U.S. polls on marriage by same-sex couples.

Part 2:

2015-APR: Support among faith
groups(Cont'd). 2015-JUL: Impact
of the Supreme Court's ruling.
Impact of polls. Biases in polls

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In this web site, LGBT refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender
persons and transsexuals. SSM refers to same-sex marriage
, a.k.a.
gay marriage .

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This introduction is continued from Part 1.

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poll symbol2015-APR: a Public Religion Research Institute poll on support of marriage equality among various faith groups (Continued):

They found support for same-sex marriage varied widely among faith groups in the U.S. Those in which a majority accept gay marriage are:

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2015-JUL: A Gallup poll detected the Impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on public opinion of gay marriage (SSM):

On 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued their ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized gay marriage across the United States. This has not been implemented in the territory of American Samoa where most of the population are recognized only as U.S. residents and not U.S. citizens. Thus, rulings by the High Court do not necessarily apply to that territory. It was also initially delayed by a few county clerks in some isolated county courthouses across the mainland U.S.

Gallup regularly samples the opinions of about 1,000 randomly selected adults across all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to find out their level of support and opposition for SSM.

Polling date % favoring SSM % opposing SSM
1996
27%
68%
2006
42%
55%
2014
55%
42%
2015-MAY-08  3
60%
37%
2015-JUL-10  4
58%
40%
2016-MAY  5
61%
37%

Justin McCarthy, writing for Gallup said:

"The two-percentage-point difference between the May and July estimates is not statistically meaningful.

Politically, Democrats (at 74%) are most likely to support same-sex marriage, followed by independents (at 62%).

Republicans (at 30%) remain least likely to support it, with a majority (67%) still opposed."  4

Comparing support and opposition shortly before and after the High Court's ruling the polling results estimated that:

  • Support for SSM dropped by two percentage points.

  • Opposition for SSM increased by three percentage points.

Webmaster's opinion:

The margin of error in both the 2015-May and July polls is ±4 percentage points. These two polls are not statistically significantly different from each other. Thus the - 2 and + 3 percentage point changes between polls may possibly be due to chance and not represent any actual shift in actual public acceptance.

I suspect that if Gallup had increased the poll's sample size from 1,024 persons, then these data may signal a real, but small, negative change in support for marriage equality. If so, it would be the first decrease in support and the first increase in opposition among the most recent seven surveys since 2012. I suspect that much of the change was due to temporary public anger directed at the High Court because they forced marriage equality on all of the states.

Much of the opposition to marriage equality is by religious conservatives, some of whom are reacting with fear. They believe that God dislikes marriage equality so strongly that he will probably send some major natural disaster(s) to the United States, like tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornados, etc. These are unlikely to happen because such punishment has not materialized after the previous 21 countries legalized same-sex marriage.

Assuming that no natural disasters occur, I expect that support for gay marriage will continue its upwards climb and opposition will continue to drop in the future.

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The impact of SSM polls:

Public opinion polls can offer a valuable insight into what the public believes and how those beliefs vary as a function of gender, political party affiliation (if any), religious affiliation (if any), age, educational attainment, income, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.:

Those groups that are either opposed or supportive of LGBT equality use polls to decide where to invest their available funds and staff effort to prevent or encourage equality.

Some lawmakers follow polls in order to pursue their prime directive -- to be reelected. Polls help them determine whether support or opposition to equality would maximize votes at the next election. They need to now how the public thinks, how strongly they hold their beliefs, and how important they consider equality, or lack of equality.

Other lawmakers follow polls because they feel that they were elected to represent the wishes of their electorate.

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Biases in public opinion polls:

Unfortunately, if the pollsters are less than honest or are careless, biases can easily creep into the poll results:

Consider three hypothetical polls:

  • One asks a series of questions about sentencing adults convicted of sexually molesting children, before asking a question about making marriage available to same-sex couples (SSM). This poll will bias the interviewee negatively towards SSM by first asking one or more questions that raise feelings of disgust and animus.

  • The second poll asks just a single question about SSM, but contacts people only via land lines between 9 AM and 5 PM on weekdays. It will also bias the results negatively, because it will over-sample retired persons who are typically at home during mid-day. Retired persons tend to be older, and much less sympathetic to LGBT equality than are those under the age of 40.

  • The third poll asks whether the military's policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell should be repealed, then whether a law should be passed to protect LGBTs from discrimination in employment, and finally a question about SSM. This poll will bias results in the direction of greater support for SSM. Because of the large public support for protection against discrimination in employment, the interviewee will probably be influenced towards greater acceptance of equality for the LGBT community.

Phrasing of the question itself can influence the results. A poll can refer to "sexual orientation" which, to many people, indicates a fixed and unchosen sexual attraction. Referring to "sexual preference" or "lifestyle" can indicate a changeable and chosen sexual attraction. The term "homosexual" is a snarl word among some people, and emotionally neutral among others. "Gay and lesbian" can be interpreted as excluding bisexuals. Some people being polled will be unfamiliar with the term "LGBT," which refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.

Unfortunately, polling agencies sometimes supply only the final results and do not reveal the conditions under which the survey was taken. This makes the interpretation of some polls difficult. Polls sometimes lie, whether by design or accident.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. We call the religiously unaffiliated "NOTAs" for NOT Affiliated. The rest of the world calls them NONEs which we believe is a really bad term because it is a homonym (sounds like) "Nuns" -- another religious term.
  2. Robert P. Jones, "Attitudes on Same-sex Marriage by Religious Affiliation and Denominational Family, Public Religion Research Institute, 2015-APR-22, at: http://publicreligion.org/
  3. Justin McCarthy, "Record-High 60% of Americans Support Same-Sex Marriage," Gallup, 2015-MAY-19, at: http://www.gallup.com/
  4. Justin McCarthy, "U.S. Support for Gay Marriage Stable After High Court Ruling," Gallup, 2015-JUL-17, at: http://www.gallup.com/
  5. "Marriage," Gallup, undated, at: http://www.gallup.com/

Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" religious topics > LGBT issues > Polling data > here

Home > "Hot" religious topics > LGBT issues > Basic data > Polling data > here

Copyright © 2001 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2016-JUL-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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