Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spinning is not winning

The same far right religious political group I wrote about yesterday is still trying to spin poll results to try and make it look like they’re not losing. I’m beginning to feel embarrassed for them and their obvious desperation.

Yesterday, at the same time that I was writing my post about how “Protect [sic] Marriage NZ” was using its site to promote phoney numbers as if they were real, they were posting a new item basically doing the same thing. In yesterday’s post I mentioned how they used Twitter to promote a NZ Herald story that showed older New Zealanders (65+) are the only ones who oppose marriage equality, because that they were “desperate for any good polling news, and this is all [they’ve] got.” That same day they posted a new item to their site (but not promoted on Twitter) under the screaming headline, “Latest poll shows even split for/against gay marriage!”

Only, it doesn’t. Of course.

What the poll of 613 readers of Wellington’s Dominion Post newspaper said was that 35% favoured marriage equality and 35% opposed it. That seems like a split, but wait—what’s this? That only adds up to 70%—what about the other 30%?!

It turns out that “Just under a quarter described themselves as ‘neutral’ on the subject, while a further 6 per cent had no opinion.” We’ve been here before, of course, when the extremists argued that marriage equality was losing support because respondents were given the option of answering that they “did not mind one way or the other”. I pointed out that the time that IF those people were opposed, they would have said so (and, in fact, outright opposition was down). Those poll results actually showed that nothing had changed.

It’s a similar story with the DomPo poll: 30% of respondents could have said they opposed marriage equality but did not. Instead, they chose a response to indicate that they’re neutral or “don’t care”—in other words, they “did not mind one way or the other”.

The DomPo doesn’t give us enough information about the poll to know for sure, but it’s certainly possible that some of that 30% aren’t supporters of marriage equality—but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re opposed: Neutral means they’re not taking a stand by choice.

The fact is, polls have consistently shown that opposition to marriage equality is roughly a third of New Zealanders, with the vast majority either supporting it or “did not mind one way or the other”. It’s nothing but spin to say that an opposition of a mere 35% amounts to a “split” among New Zealanders.

But this assertion is something that’s not the fault of the religious extremists alone. The DomPo headlined its article “Gay marriage debate likely to split families”, despite failing to provide any evidence to support that claim. The lede says, “The Labour MP behind the bid to legalise gay marriage expects the debate to divide grandparents and grandchildren.” No, she never said that in the article, only that it had the potential to split families. “Likely” and “potential” are not the same thing.

My argument with the wording is that the entire article was set-up with a conservative bias, since the assertions were not supported by the article or the poll it reported on. Everything was conjecture from people commenting on the fact that polls show that older people were more likely to be opposed to marriage equality, but no evidence whatsoever was presented to show that people would be talking about this issue at all, let alone splitting families over it. It was lazy journalism.

None of which lets the religious extremists off the hook for deliberately spinning the poll results to try and pretend they say something they don’t. What our opponents have not yet learned is a simple truth: Spinning is not winning.

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