William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Politico’s Biased Reporting Of Its Own Poll

Today’s post is over at Legal Insurrection.

The headline, helpfully supplied by William Jacobson, is “Politico poll showing ‘plurality support’ for gay marriage also shows majority opposition.” Headline writing is not my talent.

Perhaps writing informative articles and blog posts isn’t either.

1 Comment

  1. THE RELEVANT QUESTION WAS:

    Which of these best describes your views on same sex marriage or gay marriage:
    • Same sex couples should be able to be legally married;
    • Same sex couples should be able to enter into civil unions but not be allowed to get married, OR
    • Same sex couples should not be allowed to have any type of legal union?
    Legal marriage … 40%
    Civil unions ….. 30%
    No legalunion …. 24%
    OTHER (DNR) ……..1%
    UNSURE/REFUSED (DNR)..5%

    Clearly, the vast majorty of people polled, 70%, support some kind of legally recognized “union” for same-gender couples.

    Clearly, also most do not support “marriage” (54%).

    CLEARLY, WHAT THE ABOVE MEANS IS UNCLEAR: DO THE PEOPLE POLLED UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “marriage” AND “civil union”? Probably not.

    The comprehension issue here is analogous to what was observed when Bill Clinton was facing “impeachment” — which to many in the public was equated with, “kicking him out of office” even thought that’s not what “impeachment” was or is.

    What is meant by a “civil union” in context with same-gender marriage is unknown because the Federal law defining it does not exist. So, its a safe bet that what it means to any given respondent is probably different in some way to how another respondent interpreted it.

    But does any of that really matter?

    Recall the concept of “dowry” was assets coming with the wife (which is retained in the more modern tradition of the bride’s family funding the wedding). I.E., the dowry was part of a contractual arrangement involving future wife — a civil union, in other words. Many old (e.g. Roman-era) wedding portraits include a contract in the imagery; this is typical of that common theme–as is the placement of the contract…dead center to show that the core element of the “marriage union” is a contractual arrangement, for example:
    http://www.romanobritain.org/2-arl_life/roman_life_art/roman_marriage3.jpg
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Roman_marriage_vows.jpg

    The “marriage” facet most of us think of today being intimately associated with religious values is merely a recent overlay on what has historically been, at its core, a contractual arrangement involving the two wedded along with assets & resulting formalized and thus stronger relationships between the familys involved.

    The entire concept of marriage out of love, what people see as the core value of marriage today is in fact a very modern change and for the vast majority of the history of what “marriage” was about was not even a factor for consideration (in many places, rich & poor, this held true well into the 1900s).

    Thus, in the USA of today, the practical legal distinction between “marriage” and “civil union” [as used in that survey] — what rights a couple would acquire under one vs. the other label — may come down to which label applies and absolutely nothing else. Relative to the long grand tradition of marriage as it actually has been practices through history & across cultures, its a distinction with no difference.

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