‘Social anxiety’ skews same-sex marriage polls

Americans are censoring their own conservative opinions on same-sex marriage when asked about it in surveys, according to the Director of a polling group.

Tom Jensen says it would be “frankly impossible” to say that Americans are in favour of same-sex marriage in light of the 31 states which have rejected it in a public vote.

He is a supporter of same-sex marriage, but he said that people may feel “social anxiety” and give pro-homosexual answers when being asked about same-sex marriage in polls.


Mr Jensen’s comments come as some homosexual marriage supporters herald a CNN poll which appears to show narrow support for same-sex marriage in the USA.

But, a poll by Mr Jensen’s Public Policy Polling (PPP) organisation showed only 33 per cent of respondents are in favour of same-sex marriage.

He says a reason for this is the difference in polling methods. PPP uses automated polling, where the respondent presses a button, but CNN and others use ‘live’ interviewers where answers are given to a person.

Mr Jensen said respondents are “more likely to tell their true feelings on an automated poll where there’s no social anxiety concern than to a live interviewer who they may be worried about the reaction of”.


PPP accurately predicted the result of a November vote on same-sex marriage in the US state of Maine.

Its polling showed that voters would reject same-sex marriage by a margin of four per cent. But other polling, done ‘live’, showed it would be supported by up to eleven per cent.

Citizens in Maine voted to reject same-sex marriage by around six per cent.

Mr Jensen said: “The actual votes we have had on same sex marriage in many states across the country are a more dependable barometer of opinion on the issue than any polling and they tell the story of an American public pretty still pretty opposed to it.”


In February it was shown that using the phrase “gay men and lesbians” rather than the term “homosexuals” can achieve a difference of 17 per cent in poll results.

A poll by CBS News and the New York Times asked 1,084 people about homosexuals serving in the US military.

When the word “homosexuals” was used in the question, only a third of people (34 per cent) strongly favoured homosexuals serving.

But when the phrase “gay men and lesbians” was used, this number shot up to over half (51 per cent).

Related Resources