The California-based researcher behind a new poll showing that more than 60 percent of Americans believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman, said wording is key when asking Americans about gay marriage.
Gary Lawrence, a political pollster and market researcher, recently released a poll that reveals Americans largely hold traditional religious views of marriage. The reason his poll uncovered strong support for marriage, while polls from groups like Gallup do not, he explained, is because he used explicit wording.
His group, Lawrence Research, conducted a national public opinion survey of 1,000 randomly chosen adults in all 50 states and found that 53 percent of those who responded disapprove of homosexual behavior, while 28 percent approve of homosexuality. Another 20 percent had no opinion or refused to answer the question.
More than half of respondents (58 percent) said they believe the institution of marriage was created by God. By contrast, 40 percent said they believe marriage was created by man. When asked if God would expand the definition of marriage if He shared His opinion, 58 percent again said that God would not redefine marriage, while 29 percent said He would.
Finally, 64 percent of respondents said they believed marriage should only be between one man and one woman, while another 33 percent said marriage should be redefined to include any two people.
The difference between his poll and others, Lawrence explained, is that he distinguishes same-sex unions from gay marriage. Polls that ask respondents if they would legalize gay marriage, he clarified, are really asking, "These relationships are already valid marriages. Do you think the law should validate them?"
Lawrence also said his poll asks the "broader question" about how marriage should be defined.
"When you are focusing only on 'yes' and 'no' on gay marriage, you get a different answer than when you say, 'Here are the two types of marriage, which one do you support?'" he told the Deseret News.
Alliance Defense Fund's survey of marriage in June also asked Americans about the definition of marriage.
The ADF/Public Opinion Strategies poll asked 1,500 adults ages 18 and older if they strongly agreed, agreed or disagreed with the statement, "I believe marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman."
As a result, 62 percent of respondents reported that they supported a traditional definition of marriage.
Gene Ulm, Public Opinion Strategies partner and ADF survey director, said the survey's findings, which are similar to that of Lawrence Research, are not surprising.
"More than 63 million Americans in 31 state elections have voted on constitutional marriage amendments. Forty million Americans in all ... have voted to affirm marriage as a union between a man and a woman," he said in a statement. "This survey, along with the nearly 80 percent win rate in ADF marriage cases, shows the opposition has created an illusion of momentum, but not a real base of support or track record of victory in the court."
Gallup's poll asked respondents, "Do you think same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages." In the past 14 years, the majority of respondents reported that they opposed legalizing same-sex marriage and affording it equal rights. However, its 2011 poll revealed that 53 percent of Americans now believe same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages, while 45 percent do not.
Additionally, a March Washington Post-ABC poll also showed that 53 percent of Americans support gay marriage. The news poll asked respondents "Do you think it should be illegal or legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?"
National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown disputed the poll's results. He faulted the poll’s usage of the word "illegal" for implying that same-sex couples would be arrested for entering into a gay marriage.
Brown is convinced that Americans still support marriage and pointed to the recent failed attempt to pass gay marriage legislation in blue state Maryland as proof. Recent polls now suggest that the majority of Marylanders no longer favor gay marriage in their state.
An October Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies poll found 48 percent of Marylanders who vote regularly favor a law allowing same-sex marriages, while 49 percent of that group are against allowing same-sex marriages.
"The facts do support that the majority of Americans still prefer marriage between a man and woman," Brown asserted.