Gay Marriage | Gay Parents | Mark Regnerus | News | Polls

Discredited Anti-Gay Researcher Mark Regnerus Claims Marriage Equality Polls Are Biased

RegnerusIf you happen to be a gay parent or Towleroad reader, you may remember Mark Regnerus, the anti-gay social scientist (and my former professor no less) who published a "flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound" study of gay parenting last year that was widely circulated among 'pro-family' groups.

Now, Regnerus (pictured) has set his discredited sights on same-sex marriage. In an article published Tuesday for the National Review Online, Regnerus made three arguments to support his claim that the apparent growth in the public's support for marriage equality is being inaccurately inflated by flawed methodologies of pollsters:

1. Question "priming"-

"Gallup continues to ask a question about the legality of 'homosexual relations' before it asks about same-sex marriage, a technique known as 'priming'....priming shapes respondents' answers to subsequent questions, particularly where sentiments about a previous question spill over. Gallup asks whether respondents 'think gay or lesbian relations between consenting adults should or should not be legal,' a question that most observers would assume is not even asked any more."

2. The "Bradley" effect-

"In 2010 Patrick Egan, assistant professor of politics and public policy at New York University, compiled ten years of polling data about same-sex marriage in states that had voted on same-sex-marriage ballot initiatives. He found that public-opinion consistently underestimated ballot-box opposition to SSM....[When] sensitive issues are at stake, people may feel pressure to give pollsters answers that sound enlightened, politically correct, or free of any trace of 'bigotry' - a term that has reemerged as a club in the debate over same-sex marriage."

3. Question wording-

"Other suspects are the words with which survey questions are constructed. When polling organizations include the term 'rights' in their question - as do Gallup, USA Today, and CNN/ORC - support for same-sex marriage is elevated: Each found 54 to 55 percent in favor. Survey respondents appear to react positively to words like 'rights,' 'freedom,' and 'benefits,' and negatively to words like 'ban.' 

Carlos Maza over at Equality Matters has a great breakdown of each of Regnerus's points, none of which stand up to serious scrutiny. Considering his last major publication on gay issues was deemed 'bullsh*t,' Regnerus may want to tweak his own research methodology before he starts criticizing others'. 

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Comments

  1. Gay marriage support is rising because there is more awareness of the issue. Gay celebrities are getting married, gays are on TV, "Same Love" is a big summer radio hit. Gay is the new normal.

    Why do we have to keep putting up with this stupidity from Regnerus?

    Posted by: Robbie Horn | Aug 22, 2013 7:42:47 AM


  2. So much for unbiased researcher. I am appalled this man has a faculty position anywhere other than Liberty. He is an obvious hack with an axe to grind--no doubt because of his "research" funding.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Aug 22, 2013 7:47:37 AM


  3. This poor "person" is struggling mightily with himself--and, at the moment, he isn't winning.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Aug 22, 2013 7:52:06 AM


  4. If the first word of the headline is "discredited", why is anyone even paying attention to this person?

    Posted by: EO | Aug 22, 2013 8:09:35 AM


  5. He can continue to lie to conservatives and keep telling himself that his facial hair is a good idea, but equality will continue to spread, and the anti-equality numbers will continue to shrink. It's inevitable, and no lies from this ass-hat will change reality.

    Posted by: Jonathan | Aug 22, 2013 8:19:24 AM


  6. Kind of ironic this discredited POS calling studies biased... wonder if they paid him to find that as well..

    Posted by: HankNYC | Aug 22, 2013 8:37:37 AM


  7. President Romney believes the same thing.

    Posted by: Mike | Aug 22, 2013 9:42:12 AM


  8. Is this joker seriously still on the faculty at UT Austin? He accepted $700,000 from the conservative Witherspoon Institute for the study and clearly allowed his conservative Christian beliefs to influence the outcome. Jerk.

    Posted by: Rob | Aug 22, 2013 9:47:47 AM


  9. How many times is this moron has to be proven wrong before decent people ignore the twit?

    Posted by: Mmike1969 | Aug 22, 2013 10:14:40 AM


  10. Discredited yes, but his "research" was referenced when the Russian Govt. passed the insane "LBGT propaganda" law.

    This is a dangerous report and one that is being used worldwide. Keep an eye on this. It will come up again.

    Posted by: Will | Aug 22, 2013 10:24:28 AM


  11. I think these were the same reasons UnSkewedPolls.com cited for their Romney over Obama rationale.

    How'd that work out?

    Posted by: kpo5 | Aug 22, 2013 10:55:52 AM


  12. I'm not usually one to make ad hominem arguments, but...he looks like a huge homo. I wonder if someone doth protest too much.

    Posted by: Andrew | Aug 22, 2013 10:56:28 AM


  13. Yes, WE know the Regnerus study is total crap, but unfortunately it's being used around the world to promote anti-gay laws. In Russia, for example, it was cited by Mizulina, who proposed the gay ban. Remember Russia?

    The Russian "translation" also distorts the study to make it EVEN MORE ridiculously anti-gay: supposedly all 3000 of the people in the study were children of same sex families.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Aug 22, 2013 11:17:43 AM


  14. "(and my former professor no less)"

    What's that old saying? "Those who can't do, teach?"

    Posted by: woodroad34d | Aug 22, 2013 11:29:23 AM


  15. Nope. Hypochristian.

    Posted by: Sean | Aug 22, 2013 11:49:31 AM


  16. Takes great big balls for this idiot to talk about someone else's poll results being biased and incorrect.

    Posted by: jsb | Aug 22, 2013 12:12:13 PM


  17. Ah, scholarly publishing for Regnerus is writing something for the National REview.

    Too bad he overlooks the fact that there were 5 ballot measures last year and there was extensive polling on all of them. The polls were extremely accurate. In many cases, they called the result to within a single percentage point.

    There wasn't a single poll in WA, MD, ME or MN which missed the outcome or the margin. Regnerus is such a fraud.

    Posted by: Dana | Aug 22, 2013 12:29:46 PM


  18. I wish that gay publications would not give any air time or minimal air time to someone like Mr. Regnerus and especially that he, of all people, is criticizing other polls or research.....he has zero credibility

    Posted by: Bernie | Aug 22, 2013 1:08:29 PM


  19. While voters have been more reluctant to vote for gay marriage than tell pollsters they support it, the trends are obvious unless he can demonstrate that the polling bias is increasing.

    Not sure what the point of the research is? Even if the Bradley effect is important it will still mean that politicians will become more reluctant over time to discriminate against gays.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 22, 2013 1:55:03 PM


  20. Our LGBT leaders need to do more to call this piece of turd out. He's a dangerous monster, and we as a community need to constantly inform the public about this man's mental illness and bias.

    Posted by: cortez | Aug 22, 2013 3:50:19 PM


  21. "While voters have been more reluctant to vote for gay marriage than tell pollsters they support it..."

    I don't think that's necessarily the case.
    Fundamentalist religious leaders have tended to use their pulpits to convince anti-gay bigots that it is their religious duty to go out and vote. Combine that with the fact that (older) retirees have more spare time to get to the voting booths, and the result is that we tend to need more than a 4% advantage among the general public to actually win on voting day.

    In the past, when a poll would show 52% or 53% of adults favoring equality, I think the reason we would (just barely) lose on voting day is because slightly more busy young people and (unfortunately) fair-minded people tend to stay home on voting day.

    Fortunately, we now (finally!) have more of an advantage than that among the general US population as a result of increased understanding and changing demographics that continuously move in our favor.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 22, 2013 4:50:22 PM


  22. "While voters have been more reluctant to vote for gay marriage than tell pollsters they support it..."

    I don't think that's necessarily the case.
    Fundamentalist religious leaders have tended to use their pulpits to convince anti-gay bigots that it is their religious duty to go out and vote. Combine that with the fact that (older) retirees have more spare time to get to the voting booths, and the result is that we tend to need more than a 4% advantage among the general public to actually win on voting day.

    In the past, when a poll would show 52% or 53% of adults favoring equality, I think the reason we would (just barely) lose on voting day is because slightly more busy young people and (unfortunately) fair-minded people tend to stay home on voting day.

    Fortunately, we now (finally!) have more of an advantage than that among the general US population as a result of increased understanding and changing demographics that continuously move in our favor.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 22, 2013 4:50:22 PM


  23. @ KevinVT : calling Regnerus' study "total crap" is an exaggeration. The serious shortcomings were his definition of gay parents (he really needed a different term to avoid confusion on the part of non-experts reading it) and a failure to talk about the fact that he was looking at the past.

    With his definition, a person raised by his straight mom in a single-family household had a gay parent if the father had split and moved in with a boyfriend. He had hardly any data on people raised by two same-sex parents. That's not surprising as he interviewed adults to see how they actually did and asked them various questions about their parents (not a bad idea in general), but the problem is that social attitudes have been changing quickly with time, so what he really showed is that someone who grew up decades ago and had a parent who was gay was often at a disadvantage, if only due to the discrimination the parents (and hence the families) faced. That discrimination resulted in (a) lower income, (b) a larger chance of a child living in a single-parent household, and (c) a number of children placed with the parent who would be worse for the child (due to an erroneous assumption in the past that gays were a priori unfit to raise children).

    Probably the best thing to come out of the study is the data he collected. The worst thing is that it is easily misinterpreted by non-experts, particularly non-experts with an anti-gay agenda.

    A separate analysis of his data that looked for changes over time (e.g., based on the age of the individuals he interviewed) might show that the older ones interviewed did worse than the younger ones as the older ones would have grown up when anti-gay attitudes were worse. To do that, you have to take the things he tried to measure and use a linear regression to see how those values were changing with time (the catch is that the data set might not be large enough to get accurate results).

    Posted by: Bill | Aug 22, 2013 6:02:38 PM


  24. @ KevinVT : calling Regnerus' study "total crap" is an exaggeration. The serious shortcomings were his definition of gay parents (he really needed a different term to avoid confusion on the part of non-experts reading it) and a failure to talk about the fact that he was looking at the past.

    With his definition, a person raised by his straight mom in a single-family household had a gay parent if the father had split and moved in with a boyfriend. He had hardly any data on people raised by two same-sex parents. That's not surprising as he interviewed adults to see how they actually did and asked them various questions about their parents (not a bad idea in general), but the problem is that social attitudes have been changing quickly with time, so what he really showed is that someone who grew up decades ago and had a parent who was gay was often at a disadvantage, if only due to the discrimination the parents (and hence the families) faced. That discrimination resulted in (a) lower income, (b) a larger chance of a child living in a single-parent household, and (c) a number of children placed with the parent who would be worse for the child (due to an erroneous assumption in the past that gays were a priori unfit to raise children).

    Probably the best thing to come out of the study is the data he collected. The worst thing is that it is easily misinterpreted by non-experts, particularly non-experts with an anti-gay agenda.

    A separate analysis of his data that looked for changes over time (e.g., based on the age of the individuals he interviewed) might show that the older ones interviewed did worse than the younger ones as the older ones would have grown up when anti-gay attitudes were worse. To do that, you have to take the things he tried to measure and use a linear regression to see how those values were changing with time (the catch is that the data set might not be large enough to get accurate results).

    Posted by: Bill | Aug 22, 2013 6:02:38 PM


  25. @Bill: You make several good points, but there are far more serious problems with the methodology that do, I think, make it "total crap" that really gives us NO reliable information.
    Even Regeneres has apparently admitted that there were only two people in his study that he knows of who were raised in a gay parent household (though even the existence of those two has been questioned considering other faults in his classificaton).
    His use of terms like "gay parents" when refering to his findings does not just "confuse the non-experts" -- it is a complete fabrication.

    He was also handed roughly a million dollars by the anti-gay groups who wanted him to come up with some anti-gay numbers.

    A rough parallel would be if someone accepted a million dollars from the Klan to report on "the evils of black parents." So then he asks 100 white kids "has one of your parents ever had an affair with someone of another race?" and then categorizes all of those kids as "Children of Black Parents."

    And let's say there were actually TWO people we know to be black parents in the study, but let's not let that get in the way of categorizing hundreds of families that experienced affairs (and perhaps broke up as a result), most of whom aren't even black, as "The Children of Black Parents."
    What would such a study tell us about black parents? Absolutely nothing. And what does Regeneres' "study" tell us about gay parents? Absolutely nothing.

    In fact, if Regeneres had been paid a million dollars by a (hypothetical) anti-heterosexual group to look at the children of hundreds of ACTUAL same-sex parent households and had asked them "Has one of your parents had sex with someone of the opposite sex?" (and categorized all of THEM as "Children of Straight Parents,") he would very likely end up with theb same type of data in the opposite direction. (Children of straight parents have more problems).
    Extra-marital affairs (which often break up families) would be disproportionately represented in that group, whether you're asking kids if their same-sex-married mom has had sex with men or whether their opposite-sex-married mom has had sex with women (or whether one of their black parents has had sex with a white person, etc., etc.)

    If I were allowed to use methodology as shoddy as Regeneres did, I could commision a study to show any numbers in any direction against any group that my million-dollar financiers want me to come up with. And if they don't care if the numbers are implausible, it would be easy.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 22, 2013 7:35:36 PM


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