Push-polling and same-sex marriage

Desperation has clearly set in at the offices of the Amalgamated Union of Bigots, Godbotherers and Allied Dinosaurs, AKA the Coalition for Marriage, which has commissioned no less than seven separate opinion polls for publication this week in the hope of wrapping the issue of same-sex marriage in negative publicity.

All seven polls have conducted by ComRes, which has become the polling organisation of choice  for the small, unrepresentative, Christian right largely, one suspects, because it appears to have a rather slapdash approach to push-polling and the blatant use of leading questions in externally commissioned polls.

The Sun has already bitten on one of the polls by publishing the claim that 40,000 teachers – or ‘sirs’ as they put in their headline, thus keeping up the newspaper’s fine tradition of sexism – have vowed to risk the sack by refusing to give children lessons about same-sex marriage.

This is based on a poll of just 500 teachers of which 49 said that they would probably refuse to teach children about the importance of same-sex marriage, if required to do so – and that’s likely to be a pretty big ‘if’ for the vast majority of teachers.

Remember, at this stage we have no idea whatsoever as to what kind of information about same-sex marriage might find its way into school curricula beyond, perhaps, the fact that you’d expect teachers dealing with this issue to be required to be honest and tell their pupils that same-sex marriage is legal, assuming the current bill becomes law.

But perhaps the major issue the poll doesn’t address is the question of whether or not this will even be an issue for the overwhelming majority of teachers, especially secondary school teachers, who are highly unlikely to ever be called upon to teach anything at all about same-sex marriage.

Does it matter that a maths teacher is a raging bigot? No, of course not – as long as they keep their personal opinions to themselves and get on with their job of teaching maths then there isn’t going to be a problem at all.

The same article also notes that the Westminster Village idiot in residence – Nadine Dorries – has put down an amendment to supposedly ‘solve’ the problem by giving same-sex marriages a different name – ‘state marriages’.

Dorries is evidently completely oblivious to the fact that all legally recognised marriages are, strictly speaking, state marriages – if your marriage isn’t recognised by the state then it isn’t a legal marriage – providing further proof that she’s completely divorced from reality, which is more than can be said for her divorce from her ex-husband where the proof of either a marriage or a divorce remains rather elusive.

In addition to the poll of teachers, there’s a public poll which, curiously, skips the obvious question – do you agree or disagree with the legalisation of same-sex marriage? – in favour of asking questions about whether people believe Cameron is backing same-sex marriage in an effort to make the Conservative Party look ‘trendy’ (as if that were remotely possible) .

What this poll does ask is whether people agree with the following statement:

Marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long, exclusive commitment between a man and a woman.

And 53% do agree with statement, which is a little odd as its a statement you can only really disagree with if you consider that heterosexual marriage shouldn’t involve an exclusive commitment between a man and a woman. If they wanted people’s opinions about same-sex marriage they should have asked:

Marriage should continue to be exclusively defined as a life-long commitment between a man and a woman.

So the response to that question is completely meaningless.

We’ve also got a survey of 154 MPs which asks about whether most of their correspondence on this issue was either negative or positive. 74% said negative, which is hardly surprising as the Coalition for Marriage has been running its own green-ink letter writing campaign targeting MPs – again the polling information here is meaningless as it relates to an activity undertaken by a unrepresentative self-selecting sample of the public.

106 peers were also surveyed and asked whether the government should delay this legislation until after the next general election – 52% said no, so I don’t suppose we’ll here much about that in the press.

There’s a party support poll, which is near enough identical to the public poll but provides some cross-referenced info on voting intentions.

Currently 14% of Tory voters who said they would have considered voting Tory at the next election say they’ll change their mind if same-sex marriage is legalised, but then 15% of Labour voters and 14% of Lib Dems who said they would have considered voting Tory also said the same thing.

Does that tell us anything useful as we’re still more than two years away from a general election? Probably not, even if the poll does highlight that the current parties of choice for raging homophobes are UKIP – where 39% said they wouldn’t vote Tory if same-sex marriage is legalised, and the BNP (28%).

To cap things off, we’ve got an ethnic minorities poll, with the same badly worded questions as the other polls and an LGB survey which is essentially scratching around for anything that C4M might be able to use to claim that significant numbers of LGB (no ‘T’ of course) people aren’t fully supportive of same sex marriage, so we get questions like:

The controversy over introducing same-sex marriage risks making Civil Partnerships look second-rate

And…

I am against marriage as an institution

Funnily enough, none of the other polls as whether people are against marriage as an institution but, in any case, that one only got a ‘yes’ from 14% of respondents.

The main David Cameron question also gets re-written for an LGB audience. Instead of asking whether Cameron is trying to make the Tories seem more trendy by backing same-sex marriage, LGB respondent are asked whether or not he’s trying to make the Tories appear more compassionate.

However the real payload in terms of asking loaded questions comes towards the end of the survey, when LGB respondents are asked whether they agree, or disagree, with the following statements:

True marriage equality can only be achieved when same-sex couples have exactly the same choice of where to marry as straight couples have, whether in places of worship or civil locations.

If same-sex marriage is legalised I would expect the courts or Europe eventually to remove any remaining bans on access to same-sex marriage in places of worship

It doesn’t take a genius to see where C4M are going with these questions or, indeed, with this gem that got tacked on the end of the LGB survey.

If three people genuinely love each other and want their relationship officially recognised then provision should be made for them.

None of these questions appear on any of the other surveys – why?

Do heterosexuals not have opinions on these matters?

I know I do, especially on the last one where there’s already a problem in the Muslim community with ‘marriages’ conducted under Sharia law but without any legal recognition under UK law, leaving them with no rights whatsoever when the marriage breaks down. That’s not a trivial issue and while it may not require full legal recognition of polygamy in order to deal with it, its a serious matter nonetheless and needs to be addressed.

The Coalition for Marriage has mounted a dishonest campaign from the outset, so one can hardly be surprised to see then engaging in dishonest polling using obviously leading and misleadingly worded questions in a desperate effort to derail the public debate.

The message to take from all this is simple – if the Coalition for Marriage actually had a viable argument against the legalisation of same-sex marriage then it wouldn’t have to resort to push-polling to manufacture an argument.

  • Paul Wright

    I doubt anyone who agreed with the statement about the definition of marriage meant it in an inclusive sense, so I’d disagree that this question was meaningless.

    Moving the “exclusive” does change the meaning though: your preferred wording allows polygamy.

  • Chris Naden

    Speaking as someone who has been in a three-cornered relationship for some 7 years now, I’d say there’s more to the issue of reforming our monogamy-normative staus quo than just the multicultural aspects :)