Take Two for October 16, 2013

Study shows anti-gay sentiment is underestimated

Gay Marriage Los Angeles

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Paul Meja and David Barney, partners for over 40 years, get married in West Hollywood, Calif. on July 1st, 2013.

And now to a study... About studies.

You hear about opinion surveys all the time. Things like, "this percentage of Americans thinks same sex marriage should be legal," or "tThis percentage thinks one's sexuality is a choice, not something your born with."

But just how accurate are such surveys?

That's something Ohio State University economist Katie Coffman has been looking into and some of her results are rather surprising. Coffman and her colleagues ran an experiment to change how these sensitive questions were asked to get a more accurate result.

Their results show that people are more likely to say they're supportive of gay rights when they're asked directly - even if they might secretly feel otherwise. Their research tests what's known as the "social desirability bias", or telling people what we think they want to hear.

They gave respondents two different surveys like the ones listed below. One survey asked people to answer direct questions anonymously about their own sexuality and their attitudes towards homosexuality.

Another group of people were given the same questions, but in the form of statements. They were then asked to give the total number of answers that were true for them.

Questionnaire for Gay Sentiment Study

The results were surprising and economist Katie Coffman joins us to talk about it.


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