Elon Poll Shows Question Bias
Special Report - March 2, 2011
Opponents of the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) and their allies in the media are touting the results of a new poll by Elon University, which they claim show that the majority of North Carolinians oppose the MPA. However, a close examination of the survey questions reveals that the results may have more to do with the way in which the questions were asked and less to do with how the majority of North Carolinians feel about the preservation of marriage in the state constitution.
The Elon University poll, which was released February 28, surveyed 467 adults in North Carolina about a variety of issues, including the redefinition of marriage. The Elon poll asked North Carolinians two questions about the MPA, which would amend the North Carolina constitution to include the definition of marriage as only the union of a man and a woman. First, Elon pollsters asked survey participants: “Would you support or oppose an amendment to the North Carolina constitution that would prevent any same-sex marriages?” About 56 percent of those polled said they opposed or strongly opposed such an amendment, while about 38 percent said they supported or strongly supported it. In a second related question, the Elon pollsters told respondents about the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits same-sex marriage. Respondents were then asked: “Knowing that there is already a law that prevents same sex marriages in North Carolina, would you [oppose or support] an amendment to the North Carolina constitution that would prevent same-sex marriages?” According to the results, 55.3 percent said they were either opposed or strongly opposed to the MPA, while only 37.6 percent in the Elon poll said they supported or strongly supported the MPA.
The findings from the Elon University poll contradict the findings of other recent polls on the MPA. For example, according to a December 2010 poll by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, nearly two-thirds of North Carolinians support including the definition of marriage in the state constitution. The survey of 600 likely voters found that 65 percent favored “an amendment to the North Carolina constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman,” while only 32 percent were opposed.
The conflicting results of the Elon and Civitas polls have to do with the different ways in which the questions about the MPA were phrased in each poll. Notice that instead of clearly stating what the MPA would do (which is simply add the definition of marriage that is already in state law to the State Constitution), the Elon poll asked the question in a negative way, namely whether respondents supported or opposed “an amendment to the North Carolina constitution that would prevent any same-sex marriages.” In the second question, respondents were told that North Carolina already has a law protecting marriage between a man and a woman, but no explanation was given about how an amendment would protect state law from redefinition in the courts. In contrast, the Civitas Institute poll simply used language straight from the MPA itself to determine whether citizens supported or opposed it.
“The results of the latest Elon University poll are suspect because of the biased manner in which the survey questions were presented to the public,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “As the Civitas findings clearly prove, when North Carolinians are asked whether they support preserving the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in our state constitution, which is what the Marriage Protection Amendment is all about, they overwhelmingly support it! That’s because the Marriage Protection Amendment is not about discrimination but about preserving marriage for future generations of North Carolinians.”
Marriage Amendment Issue Brief - March, 2011
Grant Given To Fight Marriage Amendment - March 1, 2011
Marriage Protection Amendment Filed - February 24, 2011
Majority for Traditional Marriage - February 15, 2011
Majority Battle Rundown - February 2, 2011
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