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Why You Can Ignore Today’s CBS Poll On Civil Unions And Gay Marriage

by David Badash on May 14, 2012

in Civil Rights,Marriage,News,Politics,Polling

Post image for Why You Can Ignore Today’s CBS Poll On Civil Unions And Gay Marriage

CBS News today published a story on a gay marriage and civil unions poll they conducted which you can ignore. The poll was conducted by contacting a mere 615 people. I don’t trust any poll that doesn’t canvass at least 1000 respondents. Also, I don’t trust any poll that doesn’t release the raw data, especially the questions asked and the demographic breakdown. Finally, the poll is a follow-up to a poll they conducted a month prior, which means there’s been a relationship established, another fatal flaw in my opinion.

UPDATE — Add this piece to the reasons why the CBS poll is questionable:
Gallup: ‘Acceptance of Gay/Lesbian Relations Is The New Normal’

The CBS poll, if you’re curious, claims:

38 percent of those who responded to the survey said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, just like any other couple. Another 24 percent said civil unions should be used to grant same-sex couples legal rights similar to male-female partnerships. Combined, that means 62 percent – close to two thirds – of Americans believe that same-sex unions should be recognized by law.

Of all those who participated, 33 percent said there should be no legal recognition for same-sex couples.

So, CBS finds 38% of Americans favor same-sex marriage, days after the President came out in support of it, while we have two years of polling — many different polls now from different national pollsters — that finds a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage? I’m not buying it.

The one caveat I’ll give CBS is the poll offers same-sex marriage and civil unions, whereas most don’t include civil unions.

But I still don’t buy the poll.

If you want to see what a professional, respected, independent pollster finds on same-sex marriage, try Nate Silver at The New York Times, who writes, “an average of 50 percent of American adults support same-sex marriage rights while 45 percent oppose it, based on an average of nine surveys conducted in the past year.”


Related: Leaked: Top Republican Pollster Tells GOP To Support Gay Marriage Or Else



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{ 1 comment }

EvergreenFir May 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

Honestly not the best arguments against it.
• The sample size doesn't matter in how much you can "trust" it. A smaller sample size simply increases the margin of error.
• The fact that it's a follow-up can be problematic if only a certain percent of people replied. If the sampling is random in the original and the follow-up has good response rate, it should be fine.
• The "raw data" (i.e., the questionnaire) should be releases so the questions can be compared to other surveys and inspected for biases.
• The demographic breakdown of the responses won't tell you too much other than if the sample is skewed compared to past surveys.
• Just because this survey does not find the same thing as past surveys does not invalidate it. It is expected that some surveys will not accurately represent the population. The problem is that it is a cross-sectional survey (i.e., a one-shot). The fact that other cross-sectional surveys find different ranges and, moreover, trend studies suggest that CBS's finding is against the trend is what makes this questionable.

What they need to do is release the margins of error, questions asked, the sampling methods, response rate, and the significance level used.

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