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Gay marriage poll released by religious right group was intentionally skewed

A poll on gay marriage released by the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious right-affiliated group, raised eyebrows last week because it differed starkly from a series of polls on the same subject by respected national pollsters. ADF’s poll found that 62 percent of Americans believe that marriage should be between “one man and one woman” while at least four national polls showed more than 50 percent of Americans favoring same-sex marriage. ADF didn’t disclose the poll’s methodology, but as blogger Jeremy Hooper noted on Monday, if the ADF had, the public would discover that the poll purposefully excluded anyone who comments on political blogs.

Hooper found an internal memo between the ADF and Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm hired to conduct the poll, that laid out the questions and who would be excluded from the sample. Bloggers, people who comment on blogs, political campaign volunteers and members of the media were all excluded from the poll.

As Hooper notes, excluding those Americans from the poll would have the effect of skewing the poll.

“We are dealing with an opposition movement that benefits as much from fog as we do from clarity,” he said. “So shutting out anyone who so much as comments on blogs only helps to get to an older, less engaged audience that is willing to affirm statements about ‘protecting traditional marriage’ and ‘stopping the decline in moral values.’”

But it wasn’t just the exclusion of politically engaged Americans that skewed the poll.

Faith in Public Life, a group that advocates for faith in the public square and organizes around social justice, also took issue with the poll, specifically its wording. The ADF poll asked for response to the statement “I believe MARRIAGE should be defined ONLY as a union between one man and one woman,” while mainstream polls in recent months asked whether or not same-sex marriage should be legal.

“A key difference is that these [mainstream] polls focused on legality rather than the ‘definition’ of marriage,” the group said on Friday. “Given that the political debate surrounding same-sex marriage pertains to legislation rather than the contents of the dictionary, it’s hard to see the relevance of ADF’s data. It certainly is interesting, but it’s not even close to a refutation of the overwhelming body of current nonpartisan opinion research pointing to majority support for legal recognition of same-sex marriage.”

Recent polls have found a slight majority of Americans in favor of gay marriage. In May, Public Religion Research Institute found 51 percent were in favor of same-sex marriage. Another May poll by Gallup found 53 percent in favor of gay marriage. CNN found 51 percent supporting gay marriage in April, and in March an ABC News/Washington Post found that number to be 53 percent.

The ADF was founded by several religious right groups including the American Family Association, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Here’s the ADF memo outlining the poll’s methodology:

ADFMethodologyMemo

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