Public opinion polls on lesbian. gay,
bisexual, & transgender (LGBT) matters
Public opinion polls about equal rights for
LGBTs, civil unions, and same-sex marriage
In this website, LGBT refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender
persons and transsexuals. SSM refers to same-sex marriage
Public opinion polls can offer a valuable insight into what the public believes and how those beliefs vary as a function of gender, political party affiliation (if any), religious affiliation (if any), age, educational attainment, income, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.:
- Those groups that are either opposed or supportive of LGBT equality use polls to decide where to invest their available funds and staff effort to prevent or encourage change.
- Some lawmakers follow polls in order to pursue their prime goal -- to be reelected. Polls help them determine whether support or opposition to equality would maximize votes at the next election. They need to now how the public thinks, how strongly they hold their beliefs, and how important they consider equality, or lack of equality.
- Other lawmakers follow polls because they feel that they were elected to represent the wishes of their electorate.
Unfortunately, if the pollsters are less than honest or are careless, biases can easily creep into the poll results:
- Consider three polls:
- One asks a series of questions about sentencing adults convicted of sexually molesting children, before asking a question about making marriage available to same-sex couples (SSM). This poll will bias the interviewee negatively towards SSM by first asking one or more questions that raise feelings of disgust and dislike.
- The second poll asks just a single question about SSM, but contacts people only via land lines between 9 AM and 5 PM on weekdays. It will also bias the results negatively, because it will over-sample retired persons who are typically at home during mid-day. Retired persons tend to be older, and much less sympathetic to LGBT equality than are those under the age of 40.
- The third poll asks whether the military's policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell should be repealed, then whether a law should be passed to protect LGBTs from discrimination in employment, and finally a question about SSM. This poll will bias results in the direction of greater support for SSM. Because of the large public support for equality in employment. the interviewee will probably be in a mood to favor LGBT equality. This will bias their response to the question on SSM.
Phrasing of the question itself can influence the results. The agency can refer to "sexual orientation" which can indicate a fixed and unchosen sexual attraction. Referring to "sexual preference" or "lifestyle" can indicate a changeable and chosen sexual attraction. The term "homosexual" is a snarl word among some people, and emotionally neutral among others. "Gay and lesbian" can be interpreted as excluding bisexuals. Some people being polled will be unfamiliar with the term "LGBT," which refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
Unfortunately, polling agencies sometimes supply only numerical results and do not reveal the conditions under which the survey was taken. This makes the interpretation of some polls difficult.
Topics covered in this section:
** These topics are of particular interest,
because they give insight into what the next generation believes.
Copyright © 2001 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2014-MAR-25
Author: B.A. Robinson