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03/08/2012

Hey anti-equality folks: The Bradley Effect isn't a *good* thing

by Jeremy Hooper

Lately, I've noticed a new talking point growing in favor among the anti-equality types. Basically, they are starting to claim, more and more, that all of our polling on marriage equality is skewed because people will tell pollsters one thing ("Oh sure, I'm fine with same-sex marriage") but then change course when in the privacy of the voting booth. It's a reference to the Bradley Effect, basically.

Now, I should say that they are probably right in some cases. There's certainly incongruence both ways, with some people also doing the right thing in privacy even if they say the wrong thing when within earshot of someone who might've judged them for being pro-gay. But the opposition is probably right that the greater possibility benefits their side. Voting for marriage equality still demands a certain amount of principle over status quo, so that means more voters are more likely to back down at the last minute than they are to change in our favor. I'll actually give my opposition that one (even if I see the effect as marginal and rapidly changing in our favor).

But the thing is, this Bradley-like effect? It's not a good thing! It's not something anyone should brag about or hold in high regard. If a reality, it's a sad reality, now as it was then. It speaks to bias, not merit. It says that human beings will sometimes act in private in ways that they know would be wrong to act in public, which would seem to say something very deep and disturbing about the "protect marriage" mindset and its knowingly out-of-step root.

So that's why I find it truly weird to hear people like the National Org. for Marriage's own Thomas Peters touting the Bradley Effect as it's a positive thing for his cause:


[SOURCE: The Drew Mariani Show]

Of course people like Thomas say that it's the response to pollsters that's really the bad thing. They try to say that people who say pro-equality things to pollsters are succumbing to our "politically correct" culture. They claim that those pesky LGBT activists are pressuring the poll responses, as if we are standing outside every citizens' window with cross arms and smug looks that influence the reply. They claim it's good that people "triumph" over the public pressure.

The truth is that this public vs. private reality, regardless of how much palatability it may hold, is not worthy of anyone's celebration. The fact of the matter is that most people know, at their cores, that it is wrong to foster discrimination against certain kinds of people for most any reason that would come to the logical fore (including choice of religion), but especially when based on one's normal, natural, intrinsic characteristics. So when speaking to a human being about same-sex couples -- who most people realize, despite the aggressive spin from the other side, are a part of our spectrum of normalcy -- and their deserved rights as American taxpayers, some who can't overcome their private, long held biases that were ingrained in them by a still-too-non-accepting society do manage to voice tacit public support. They do this, by and large, because they know it is the right thing for our greater, shared good! They say the right thing to a pollster because they know that marriage equality is the right thing for America. Or at the very least, the only real way to settle this issue.

It's likely that NOM doesn't care about any of this in the here and now, where they want to win votes in the short-term. But in the long game? Well, I'd bet my money on the accepting view that's thriving in polite company, not that which depends on transgressive secrecy.

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