YouGov polling expert questions validity of anti-gay marriage results

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

YouGov Associate Director Anthony Wells has criticised same-sex marriage polls that feature agree/disagree statements.

The Coalition for Marriage (C4M), which campaigns against equal marriage, has repeatedly commissioned ComRes to produce several polls that incorporate the trait in the past year.

C4M have then used the results to bolster its argument against the government’s reforms.

In response to a recent C4M-commisioned ComsRes poll that claimed 54% of people would support a referendum on equal marriage, on his website, UK Polling Report, Mr Wells declared that “people want a referendum on almost everything,” and said:

“The way polling commissioned by the lobby opposed to gay marriage is reported by the newspapers and those commissioning it is almost a masterclass in poor interpretation of polls.

“Firstly we have the problems of polls conducting using agree/disagree statements, which risk bias in the direction of the statement asked… and often give contradictory answers if properly balanced with statements in the other direction”.

Mr Wells then went on to criticise the reporting of last week’s C4M poll, which stated that 62% of people agreed with the statement “marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman”.

In response, Mr Wells said: “The campaign against gay marriage have consistently focused on this question and interpreted this as meaning that 62% of people are opposed to gay marriage. However, the same poll found people agreeing by 44% to 38% that ‘legalising gay marriage is important because maintaining the distinction between civil partnerships and marriage worsens public attitudes towards gay people’”.

Mr Wells continued: “One could just as easily cherry pick that question from the poll and claim that more people support than oppose gay marriage,” he added: “readers of some newspapers could be forgiven for thinking that the polling showed that the public were opposed to gay marriage, when any fair minded look at the broad range of polling on the issue would show that the balance of opinion is broadly positive towards it.”