SF Gate has an interesting article which estimates that poll results regarding support for marriage protection amendments are lower than actual opinion.
The article says that pre-election polling in several states that have already passed marriage protection amendments low balled estimates by as much as 19 percentage points. Why?
While the article cites a factor that I wholeheartedly agree with--a big factor is how the question is asked (how it's worded, what sort of tone and inflection the pollster uses, etc.)--I don't think that's the only reason, not by a long shot.
Gay rights supporters blame people's unwillingness to express an anti-gay opinion to a pollster for the discrepancy between polls and the ballot box, and McClusky agrees. But public opinion experts who study the phenomenon of "social desirability," which leads people to lie to pollsters on issues like church attendance or whether they would vote for an African American candidate, think other factors may be more significant.Or as I more simply put it, "people know what 'the right answer' is." In other words, many people are social animals to the point that they feel compelled to follow the herd. They don't want to be perceived as out of step with the crowd. And since our "objective media" does such a good job of telling people what the politically correct opinion is, and how if you're not in agreement with it you're a Bible-thumping, provincial, uneducated, bigoted rube, then people are somewhat naturally going to give "the right answer" when a member of this same intelligentsia calls them and asks them if they support what is implied to be "equal rights for the peace-loving and oppressed gay community that is just seeking to get along and be recognized as 'just as good as everybody else'", or if they're one of those "uneducated, hate-mongering religious zealots who oppose fair treatment of gays?"
Of course, you probably won't see the question put that way in the pollster's call, but the "objective media" has already laid the groundwork for that implication with their incessant, nonstop statements to that effect in the daily newspapers and newscasts.
So, as I often say when many people are polled, "They know the right answer, and that's what they tell the pollster. But when they go into the privacy of the voting booth (where that elitist voice which ridicules them for their values isn't so strong), more often than not, they vote their conscience."
We'll see just how right I am in a little over a week...