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Marriage law closely contested, poll shows
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BY MATT WICKENHEISER Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 09/19/2009

BY MATT WICKENHEISER

Portland Press Herald

A people's veto question that seeks to repeal Maine's new same-sex marriage law is in a statistical dead heat, according to a poll released Friday.

The Research 2000/Daily Kos poll reported that 48 percent of likely voters said they'd vote to overturn the law, and 46 percent would vote not to. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Mainers will vote on the question on Nov. 3.

According to a Daily Kos press release, 600 likely voters were contacted by phone between Monday and Wednesday. They were asked the question: "As you may know there will be one question on the ballot this November in Maine addressing the issue of same-sex unions. In part it will read 'Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry?' A yes vote takes away the right of same-sex couples to marry. A no vote keeps the right of same-sex couples to marry. If the election were held today would you vote YES or NO on this question?"

The Daily Kos is a left-leaning news and opinion Web site. According to the release, Research 2000 is a "non-partisan pollster" that does work for media outlets.

Campaigns supporting and opposing same-sex marriage commented on the poll, and a local pollster suggested that the survey may be less than accurate.

"We've always known this would be a hard-fought campaign and that the results would be close," said No on 1 campaign manager Jesse Connolly in a written statement. "We feel confident that we have the right strategy and we're running a Maine-based campaign."

Marc Mutty, chairman of Stand For Marriage Maine, which opposes the same-sex marriage law, said he was encouraged by the results of the poll.

"Our lead is particularly significant given that the poll was conducted after our opponents had the television airwaves to themselves for two-and-a-half weeks and our ad had aired for just two days," said Mutty in a written statement.

"It is clear that their message of fairness and equality do not compel voters to support homosexual marriage, particularly against the backdrop of the serious, real consequences to individuals, small businesses and religious organizations that we raise," he said.

The press release on the poll called the demographic breakdown on the question "a mixed bag."

"... Men oppose gay marriage, but women support it. Democrats are obviously a strong (demographic) for supporters of gay marriage, and with 9 percent of the undecided coming from their ranks, that could prove a factor. Independents narrowly support gay marriage, but not enough to help offset that massive wave of opposition coming from Republicans," the release said.

Patrick Murphy, president of Pan Atlantic Consulting SMS Services, a Portland-based consulting group, called the poll "weird," and suggested it wasn't very accurate.

Murphy said his biggest problem with the question about same-sex marriage was that it didn't match up with the wording of the referendum question that will be on the ballot.

The question on the ballot will be: "Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"

The poll could be biased in favor of those seeking to repeal the law, because the second part of the question wasn't put to the people taking the survey, said Murphy.

And, said Murphy, the pollsters also attempted to explain what a 'yes' or 'no' vote would do, and that's questionable.

"Proper polling only reads the question as is. You don't get into prompting or explaining," said Murphy.

"When I walk in to vote in Portland, that won't be on my ballot."

According to Research 2000, the wording of the questions was provided by the Daily Kos.

In a poll Murphy did last April, before legislators voted on the same-sex marriage bill, Mainers were similarly split, with 49.5 percent against the bill, 47.3 percent in favor and 3.3 percent undecided.

The poll had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. That means that if the poll were to be repeated, the results would be within 4.9 points of the present findings in 95 of 100 cases.

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