Scottish anti-marriage equality group to launch ‘misleading’ poll ads today

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A ‘misleading’ poll question which asked voters to agree that gays ‘should not be allowed to redefine marriage for everyone else’ because they ‘already have’ civil partnerships will be used in publicity by equal marriage opponents in Scotland from today.

53 percent of just over a thousand Scottish voters asked by the Opinion Research Business said they would agree with the statement that gays should not ‘be allowed to redefine marriage’ for them.

The question has been described as “biased and misleading” by marriage equality advocates.

The poll was commissioned by Scotland for Marriage, a coalition working against equality in the same was as the Coalition for Marriage in England and Wales.

It plans to publicise the results in Scottish papers from today.

When the Coalition for Marriage asked English and Welsh voters exactly the same question in February, 51 percent agreed.

Voters were asked what they thought of the statement: “Since gay and lesbian couples already have the same rights as married couples available to them under civil partnership, they should not be allowed to redefine marriage for everyone else.”

Scotland’s public consultation on equal marriage rights for gay couple finished in December 2011. The public consultation on how to introduce equality in England and Wales launched today.

Despite widespread criticism of the question when it was posed to English and Welsh voters, Scotland for Marriage heralded the slim majority as a victory for marriage opponents.

A spokesman for Scotland for Marriage said: “There simply is not majority support for this very contentious and divisive issue. Although this issue is one of general concern across the whole of Scottish society, the assurances given to religious bodies will do nothing to comfort them.”

In other results from the poll, 71 percent disagreed with the ill-defined statement: “Someone who defends traditional marriage is discriminating against gays and lesbians”.

69 percent agreed with the sentence “Although death or divorce may prevent it I believe that the ideal situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father”, which was the only question on children and did not give the option for respondents to say whether a child would do equally well with two gay parents.

Statistics on respondents’ religions were not available this morning.

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “The Scotland for Marriage poll is so flawed that it’s hard to believe any reputable polling agency would agree to take on the job. The questions they devised are biased and misleading, and it’s telling that they have chosen not to advertise those results that didn’t go the way they intended.”

French said the poll question “contains two falsehoods; civil partners don’t get the same rights as married couples, and the same-sex marriage proposals will not redefine mixed-sex marriage at all.”

The results have not been replicated in independently-commissioned polls in Scotland or in England and Wales.

An ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph shows 45 per cent supporting Wesminster’s proposal to introduce equal marriage in principle, and only 36 per cent opposing it.

ICM’s question was: “You might be aware that currently the law allows gay people to enter civil partnerships but they cannot get married. The Prime Minister, David Cameron wishes to legalise gay marriage but some senior members of both the Catholic Church and the Church of England are opposed. Do you support or oppose the move to legalise gay marriage?”

A similar poll by YouGov for the Sunday Times found 43 per cent in favour of same sex marriage, 32 percent in favour of just civil partnerships and just 15 per cent opposed to both.

In 2010, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, an academic study commissioned by the Scottish Government asked the question: “Do you agree or disagree that gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to marry?”

61% of respondents agreed, whilst just 19% disagreed.

In addition to using a question that was widely discredited by commentators in England and Wales, the results show that more Scottish voters see the move as a priority than English and Welsh did.

After the ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph, a paper which opposes marriage equality, showed more people were in favour of equal marriage than opposed to it, headlines began focusing on the fact that 78% of the respondents thought it unnecessary to fast-track legislation.

But in Scotland for Marriage’s poll, they could not show support, even using the loaded statement: “Given the recession and the Government’s other political priorities such as the proposed referendum on independence for Scotland, debating whether or not to legalise same-sex marriage is an unwelcome distraction.”

47 percent disagreed with the sentence, 46 percent agreed.

The Scotland for Marriage group was launched with a speech by Cardinal Keith O’Brien in November last year and is backed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.

Speaking of plans for civil marriage in England and Wales recently, Cardinal O’Brien decried them as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.