Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why The HRC Poll on DOMA Is Not Well Done

      Today, the Human Rights Campaign in conjunction with Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, released a poll that supposedly shows that a majority of Americans (51-34%) do not agree with the House Republican leaderships decision to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court. As I do when all polls are released and before I jump on the bandwagon of "yay for marriage equality supporters", I look at the questions asked as well as the order of the questions. It is because of this analysis that I am not confident with the "results" that the just released poll has. There are two reasons. If you would like to follow along with me, here is the poll itself.

1. Question 20 reads as follows,
As you may know, the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 and FORBIDS the federal government from recognizing marriages between gay and lesbian couples legally performed in states where such marriages are legally permitted. Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose the law banning federal recognition of legal marriages?
       Automatically you are getting a different answer than what should truly be seen. Instead of saying "legal marriages" - a term which is hiding the true nature of these marriages - a more accurate word choice would be "same-sex marriages". Though this may anger marriage equality proponents ( because you are differentiating between the two types of marriages), it gives us a more accurate representation of what people are actually thinking.

      2. Though the first one may be me nitpicking, but the bias in the last section that I want to draw your attention too should be readily apparent. Question 25 reads as follows....

As you may have heard, some courts have declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The Obama administration agrees and will no longer defend this law in court. However, Republicans in Congress have decided to take over legal responsibilities for defending this law. Which one of the following statements comes closer to your point of view when it comes to this action.  
The first/second statement is: in the 2010 elections, the Republicans promised to focus on jobs and cutting the deficit. Since coming into office, Republican Leaders have said on numerous occasions that fixing the economy should be their number one priority. Now, instead of focusing on jobs, they will divert taxpayer money and countless hours trying to score political points and divide the country. We need Congress to focus on jobs.  
The first/second statement is: the Obama administration is constitutionally required to defend laws duly passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by previous Presidents. When it failed to do so, Congress was forced to step in. Marriage is between a man and a woman and voters in 31 states have voted to support traditional marriage. Congress should defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
       Both of these statements have great issues with them; for neither are neutral. In regards to the first statement, anyone would be naturally hesitant to disagree with it being a negative for Congress to "divert taxpayer money and countless hours trying to score political points and divide the country." Secondly, throwing in the idea of "marriage is between a man and a woman and voters in 31 states have voted to support traditional marriage" also clouds the issue. The Controversy over the Defense of Marriage Act for many people is not about marriage being between a man and a woman, and is instead about the executive forsaking its constitutional duty. Thus, for those who agree with marriage equality, we are more likely to choose the first answer, because the second one has that line about the definition of marriage.

       These are not a neutral statements or points of view - they are clearly biased in favor of the former question. Hence, it not surprising to see that more people agree with the first one (54%) rather than the last one (32%).

        Why am I nitpicking at the HRC poll, why can't I just let it be and be happy with the result? One main reason; I hate when anyone - whether it be the National Organization for Marriage or the Human Rights Campaign - uses shoddy research methods and leading questions to gain a desired end. I call out NOM on it, and to be consistent I must also call out HRC.
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