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Australian politics

Telephone poll claims same-sex marriage may lead to ‘radical gay education’ in Australian schools

Conservative opponents of marriage equality, including John Howard and Tony Abbott, argue that it poses a threat to religious freedom and freedom of speech

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 3:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 3:37pm

A robocall asking Australians their opinion about the same-sex marriage postal survey has suggested that marriage equality may lead to “radical gay sex education” and threats to freedom of speech and religion.

The poll, which was first reported by social media users on Tuesday night, stated that it was conducted by the Republican-linked American pollster WPA Intelligence.

Marriage equality advocates fear the call, which contains no authorisation disclosing who commissioned it, may be push-polling designed to boost the no campaign.

The poll asks a series of seven questions.

The first three are neutral questions asking whether the respondent: has a favourable or unfavourable view of Malcolm Turnbull; intends to vote in the postal survey; and whether they support, oppose, do not plan to vote or are unsure about their vote on same-sex marriage.

It has nothing to do with schools, it has nothing to do with kids, it’s a misinformation campaign
Steven Short, respondent

The poll then repeats the question about support or opposition to same-sex marriage after two propositions: “Denying some people the option to marry is discriminatory and creates a second class of citizens”; and “Legalising same-sex marriage may lead to negative consequences such as radical gay sex education being taught in school, threats to freedom of speech and freedom of religion”.

The last two questions ask for the respondent’s age and sex for “verification purposes”.

Steven Short, who was surveyed by the robopoll, said that when he first answered the call it “didn’t have the more balanced question” about denying some people the option of marriage being discriminatory.

“I was disappointed that whichever organisation is responsible for the robo-dial is spreading misinformation en masse – because the marriage plebiscite is simply about nothing other than allowing two people of the same sex to marry,” he said. “It has nothing to do with schools, it has nothing to do with kids, it’s a misinformation campaign.”

Omnipoll partner, and former Newspoll chief executive, Martin O’Shannessy, said the poll may be an advertising agency “testing the efficacy of the two main messages of the campaign” because it offers two propositions with “one each way”.

O’Shannessy said that surveys should always identify the sponsor as required by Australian Communications and Media Authority rules and it was “suspicious” this survey did not identify its source.

“Where you only have one proposition and it’s very negative, that is prima facie evidence of a push poll,” he said. “[This survey] is a bit light on on one side, the yes vote side. But my gut is if it was a push poll it could’ve been worse.”

WPA Intelligence is not a member of the Association of Market and Social Research organisations or the Australian Market and Social Research Society. It bills itself as one of the top two Republican polling firms in the US and does work for Senator Ted Cruz.

The phone number generating the call, a New South Wales or ACT-based landline, has already been reported by several users of the Should I Answer online forum who appeared confused about whether the poll encouraged responses for or against same-sex marriage.

“I took the poll but am now not sure that I should have. It asked the same question three times and seemed to be push-polling but from both sides of the debate which I found to be strange,” reported one user called Milton.

“Asking about Malcolm Turnbull ... very dodgy IMO [in my opinion],” said one user.

“Harassing call to get details of how you vote in plebiscite. SSM [same-sex marriage] advocates continually attacking Australia people,” said another user.

Claims that marriage equality will impact the gender education of children have been central to the no case, with the first Coalition for Marriage ad claiming schools will allow boys to wear dresses and compel students to role play same-sex relationships.

Conservative opponents of marriage equality, including John Howard and Tony Abbott, argue that it poses a threat to religious freedom and freedom of speech.

On Wednesday, the Coalition will introduce a bill requiring campaign communications to be authorised and establishing protections against vilification, intimidation and threats against participants in public debate.

Vilification based on a person’s sexuality, gender identity, intersex status, religious convictions or the views they hold or are perceived to hold about the survey will be banned.

The bill contains remedies including injunctions and penalties of up to US$12,600 for vilification, but limits who can bring a case to authorised campaign groups and gives the attorney general a gatekeeping power to reject cases seeking a penalty.