How you ask the question on the marriage amendment matters

The Elon University Poll's result showing strong resistance to marriage amendment could be influenced by how it asks the question.

Posted Updated

Mark Binker
There is yet another poll out looking at attitudes toward the marriage amendment on the May ballot today. The Elon University Poll finds 61.2 percent of those surveyed would oppose a constitutional amendment banning "same sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions."
That result could lead one to be much more pessimistic about the amendment's chances than other polls we've written about recently, in which the amendment appears headed for passage.

Yes, there is the usual caveat that the Elon University Poll looks at the general population and doesn't screen for likely voters. But the more important reason for the different results is how the Elon Poll asks the question. 

Elon asks about the effect of the amendment, but it strays from the actual language of the amendment. Other polls that show the measure passing stick closer to the language voters will see when they fill out their ballots, which talks about the definition of marriage.

This won't surprise anyone who looks at polls regularly, but does reinforce the point that how pollsters ask a question matters. It also could reinforce the notion that there is a gap between  what voters say they will do this May and what they might actually want to happen.

Meanwhile, the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce is the latest group to take a position against the amendment. The chamber said the proposal could jeopardize domestic partner benefits offered to employees of some local companies and make it harder to recruit new business to North Carolina.

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