Exploring the Social Imagination

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Misleading the Social Imagination in America

The use of misleading statistics...
In 2011, The Williams Institute, at the UCLA School of Law, estimated that 9 million (about 3.8%) of Americans identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  Yes, that was 4 years ago. But four years in statistical analysis is not huge difference. If it were, there would be chaos considering that near radial change would be part of our daily existence. 
Why is this number an estimate?

The number of LGBT persons in the U.S. is subjective. Studies pointing to the statistics are estimates at best. The most widely accepted statistic is that 1 in ever 10 individuals is LGBT; however some research estimates 1 in 20. Of course, this all depends on one's definition of gay (which may vary by study) and the participant’s willingness to identify as gay, bi, lesbian or transgender. So, why can't the actual number of GLB people be counted? 

What do the experts say?
When asked about GLB population statistics, Gary J. Gates, a Senior Research Fellow at The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, says:

"That's the single question that I'm asked the most. The answer is unfortunately not simple. I'll respond with a question. What do you mean when you use the word 'gay'? If you mean people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in a survey, then the answer is that it's likely not one in ten, but closer to one in twenty.  A recent government survey found that 4 percent of adults aged 18-45 identified as 'homosexual' or 'bisexual.' 

If that is a truer statistical sample, then why do Americans think that same sex marriage should be legal? Does it mean that they are likely to be gay or that they just sympathize? Rather the later. Why?  In a political year, more Americans are more likely to identify with causes that will affect them or sympathize with minorities who seem to be under the foot of the majority and their rights being somehow squashed. This causes sympathy toward a minority.  

If you were to ask the question, “Do you think that same sex marriage is immoral” what would be the stats in this country given that somewhere around only 4% are gay or lesbian? Perhaps, there would still be sympathy bias (sympathy toward a minority) given it is an election year. Why do political surveys of this kind or topic pop up at this time of presidential election? It is about winning favor with groups of people including minorities and if one can get all the minorities then you will have a new voting bloc. 

Yes, Gallop poll is now showing (during this election year) that about half of all Americans (52%) believe that same-sex marriage should be legal in all states while 43% are opposed. These stats reflect minority group sympathy and do not reflect a moral position regardless of election year bias.Why/How? it is based on the social imagination tendency to be part of the perceived - in group!

The other problem with this Gallop poll is that we don’t know who they polled and or how many in real numbers. The question being, do their percentages actually represent all Americans? Rather not. 

Why? Firstly, there cannot be found actual numbers that show Gallup actually polled 330 million people which is the fair total population of the US as of today. Half of that number would be 165 million. Did Gallup actually poll that many people? Not likely. Social researchers do not have time or the funding to personally ask that many people their opinion. They rather paint a broad stroke in order to get a sample. That is all. Why? Because they are being paid by a certain group as in funded. So, they chose a path or portion of the population that they suppose will best reflect their agenda in a positive light. 

Pew Research suggests that opposition to same-sex marriage may be understated in public opinion polls. In a new study, political scientist Richard J. Powell found that pre-election surveys consistently underestimated opposition to these laws by 5 to 7 percentage points. Blame “social desirability” bias—the tendency of people to give what they believe is the socially acceptable view rather than disclose their true feelings about sensitive topics, wrote Powell in an article to be published in the journal American Politics Research. 

However, detecting social desirability bias in surveys is difficult. Social desirability bias in polling comes in many flavors. Perhaps the most well known is the “Bradley Effect,” named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a black man, who faced Republican George Deukmejian, who was white, in the 1982 California gubernatorial race. Bradley held a substantial lead in most pre-election polls, only to lose narrowly. His defeat fueled speculation that some white voters had given misleading answers to poll-takers, saying they supported Bradley or were undecided but really favored Deukmejian.

But it wasn’t until 2007 that Harvard political scientist Daniel Hopkins confirmed the existence of the effect – social desirability bias. Funny it took so long, guess some never heard of” monkey see monkey do”. That expression came along before most social theorists. Of course, one could say that more people would declare to be gay or support a gay lifestyle but are constrained by the social bias knowing that homosexuality is frowned on. Going with that, we should then take into serious consideration that there was and still likely exists within society the understanding that homosexuality is wrong as there is an awareness of it being frowned on by the majority as the individual fears they would stand out in the majority knowing the majority rules. Of course, the argument would be “yes”... this is the problem/case. 

Perhaps, many sympathetic people would argue that more people would come out of the closet if it weren’t for the majority. Recognizing that they themselves are part of the majority and hence they sympathize. They should ask why do they or why does anyone else have a problem with the majority that is an important question too? 

In respect of the majority, the number of marriages between a man and a woman has remained close to steady and births to those couples still enough to keep baby doctors and diaper manufacturers in business, along with the 'women's' wedding dress and wedding venue industry up and running (remember that only 4% of the US population declares to be gay/lesbian).  One could agree that the majority of people prefer marriage between a man and a woman. And, yes, those same people could be sympathetic toward same sex couples especially when asked in an election year. 

No one has asked this question this year - “Do you think that homosexuality is immoral”? For that matter, unnatural could be used. I am sure the stats would reveal a different social reality. 

At least Gallup did provide their target audience ~ Younger Americans are more supportive of same-sex marriage, and this will likely continue to drive overall support at the gradual pace it has increased over recent years. And, they do acknowledge that in the South traditional marriage advocates still hold a majority of support.

 *This is not an anti-homosexuality nor pro homosexuality post, it is to show how so called expert research and outcomes are skewed or have bias. Can we ever know the real social imagination? That is a very good question.

One could argue from the Christian perspective that homosexual union is not one of the ten commandments. That is true. Marriage is not about sex. It is about two people coming together to glorify God, the Creator. Is it a sin, yes it is. There are many sins that are not on the ten commandment list: alcoholism, mental and physical abuses to others, gossip, petty theft, slander, etc. What it God does say clearly... "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial" ~ 1 COR 10:23. We can understand that as our choice and at the same time made to be mindful of the repercussion.

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