Pollsters to Voters: Be Straight With Us

Gay-marriage ban fails in surveys, but are respondents lying?
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2008 3:47 PM CDT
Pastor Jim Garlow from the evangelical Skyline Church, left, talks with openly gay church member Dean Hughes after Garlow's sermon against gay marriage on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008 in San Diego.    (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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(Newser) – Polls indicate that a California ballot measure to ban gay marriage will fail by a substantial margin—but that might be because respondents are lying to pollsters to avoid seeming homophobic, the Sacramento Bee reports. A recent study sponsored by supporters of the measure hints that polls do understate support for same-sex marriage bans, although one expert questions the legitimacy of its findings.

Voters “don't want to be seen by pollsters as being intolerant—so they hide their views," a pro-ban campaigner says. This phenomenon is known as the “Bradley effect” and usually invoked to account for racial disparities between polls and election results. But the expert, an NYU professor, says that, if the effect does play a role in gay-marriage polls, "it's small and certainly not getting bigger over time."