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Same-sex marriage & domestic partnerships in Washington State

Public opinion polls on same-sex
marriage, domestic partnerships, etc.

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Sponsored link.

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Support for same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships:

The Washington Poll describes themselves as a:

"non-partisan, academic survey research project sponsored by the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity & Race (WISER), a research center at the University of Washington in the School of Social Sciences." 1

They have regularly conducted polls of Washington state voters to determine their position on of same-sex relationships. Each time, they ask the same question: "Which of the following statements best describes your views on the issue of same-sex marriage?" Margin of error is ±4.0%, 2

The possible answers were:

bulletSSM: "Gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal right to marry as straight couples."
 
bulletFull D.P.: "Gay and lesbian couples should be able to have the same legal rights as straight couples but it should not be called marriage."
 
bulletPartial D.P.: There should be domestic partnerships that give gay and lesbian couples only some of the benefits and protections of marriage.
 
bulletNo recognition: There should be no legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples.

The most recent poll shows that supporters of SSM together with supporters of full domestic partnerships outnumber the rest by about 2 to 1.

Year SSM Full D.P. Partial D.P. No Recognition Undecided
2006 30% 29% 12% 26% 3%
2007 35% 24% 14% 22% 5%
2008-OCT 37% 29% 11% 21% 2%

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2009 Poll:

The Elway Poll describes themselves as

"... the only independent, [sic] non-partisan, on-going analysis of public opinion trends in Washington state and the Northwest." 7

During 2009-APR, Elway Research conducted a survey of Washington voters. It gave only two options: whether the subject was in favor of or opposed to SSM. The poll was paid for by the Faith & Freedom Network -- a group opposed to equal rights for registered domestic partners -- mostly same-sex couples.

One might ask why an anti-equality group would fund a poll on same-sex marriage when the real question being debated in the state of Washington at the time was Senate Bill SB 5688. That bill proposed the enhancement of rights, privileges, protections and obligations of registered domestic partners. The bill does not contain the term "same-sex marriage." If the bill goes into effect, same-sex couples will continue to be prohibited from marrying. No domestic partner would receive any of the the approximately 1,140 federal benefits that are automatically given to every married couple.

The answer might lie in the advertising campaign mounted against the bill. Videos were circulated implying that registered domestic partnerships are the same as same-sex marriage. That advertising campaign may be replicated later in 2009 as the referendum date approaches.

Results indicated a further increase in support for SSM since the 2008-OCT Washington Poll: 3,4  However, the 43% support in this poll cannot be precisely compared to the 37% result from the Washington Poll, because the margin of error is on each datum is so great (±4.0%).

Year Favor SSM Opposed
to SSM
No answer
2009 43% 50% 7%

As in other polls there is a strong variation of SSM support with age:

Age Favor SSM Opposed to SSM No answer
18 to 35 [sic] 59% 39% 2%
35 to 54 47% 47% 6%
55-64 43% 47% 10%
65+ 30% 62% 8%

The variation with gender seems a bit higher than unusual:

Gender Favor SSM Opposed to SSM No answer
Male 34% 58% 8%
Female 51% 43% 6%

Margin of error is ±5%.

Unfortunately, there are some very serious deficiencies in the polling procedure, all of which probably underreport support for SSM:

bulletThe polling was conducted using only land lines -- no cell phone numbers were called. Between mid-2007 and mid-2008, the percentage of Americans that own cell phones but do not have land lines rose from 13.6 to 17.5%; this number is probably still rising. Many of these individuals who were cut out of the polling are young and liberal, and thus would favor of equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations.
 
bulletThe pollsters asked the question: "In your opinion, should homosexuals be allowed to legally marry?" The term "homosexual" has become a bitter snarl word among many religious and social conservatives. The terms "gays and lesbians" or "same-sex couples" have much less negative baggage attached. The Elway poll used the term "homosexual" in their poll.
 
bulletOne indication of bias in this poll is that:
bullet29% of the subjects who responded were aged 65 or over. 4
bulletOnly 11.7% of the residents of the state are aged 65 or over. 6

This imbalance may have been attained by simply phoning voters during the daytime, when many people under the age of 65 were working and many 65 and older were at home.

The poll showed that young adults favor SSM by a wide margin and that those over 65 years-of-age are more than 2 to 1 opposed to SSM. Thus, the results are based on an unrepresentative sampling of subjects that has underreported support for SSM.

As Benjamin Disraeli once said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." There are all sorts of ways to distort reality during polls.

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2011-OCT-31: State public opinion poll on same-sex marriage:

The Center for Survey Research at the University of Washington released the results of their poll among registered voters on same-sex marriage (SSM). (N = 938; the margin of error is ±3.2 percentage points. They reported:

  • 55% of the voters would uphold SSM if it was approved by the Legislature; 38% would be opposed; 7% were undecided or didn't answer. The margin is 17 percentage points, about double that of recent national polls.

  • 44% of the voters prefer that same-sex couples be allowed to marry; 22% preferred the existing registered partnership; 17% felt that their relationships should not be recognized at all. 8

With such heavy support for SSM, most or all of the Democratic representatives and senators may well vote in favor of the proposed SSM bill. However the margin of 17 percentage points among the public in favor of SSM is probably not nearly sufficient for a significant number of Republican lawmakers to support the bill.

See another essay that includes 20 responses to this poll by Seattle Times' readers.

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References used in this essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "November 1, 2008 Final 2008 Poll Results," Slide 1 at: http://www.washingtonpoll.org/  This is a Power Point file.
  2. Ibid Slide 6.
  3. Dominic Holden, "Poll Accidentally Shows Gay Marriage Gaining Ground," Slog news & arts, 2009-APR-27, at: http://slog.thestranger.com
  4. Proprietary Report: Faith & Freedom Network," 2009-APR, at: http://www.faithandfreedom.us/
  5. "Knights of Columbus endorse Ref. 71," Protect Marriage Washington, undated, at: http://protectmarriagewa.com/
  6. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington data, 2007 at: http://quickfacts.census.gov/
  7. "The Elway Poll," at: http://www.elwayresearch.com/
  8. Andrew Garber, "UW poll finds support for gay marriage law," The Seattle Times, 2011-OCT-31, at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/

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Copyright © 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-JUL-29
Latest update: 2011-NOV-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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