LifeSiteNews 21 May 2015
A December 2014 study alleged that homosexual activists, in a twenty-minute conversation, can change the minds of those who oppose redefining marriage. Six months later, the data to support the study has been revealed as fraudulent, and the study itself has been retracted.
Titled “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality,” the study claimed that homosexual activists canvassing door-to-door in favor of redefining marriage could convert the people they spoke with – and that the interlocutors’ epiphanies would not only last for a year, but also inspire members of their households to favor redefining marriage as well.
The study, published in Science magazine, was conducted by Columbia University political science professor Donald Green and UCLA grad student Michael LaCour. Green initiated the retraction after discovering that LaCour’s work comprised “an incredible mountain of fabrications with the most baroque and ornate ornamentation.”
In an extensive report, Buzzfeed News detailed that three researchers were unable to reproduce LaCour’s findings, instead discovering multiple “statistical irregularities” in the data. Additionally, LaCour’s claims of having received funding for the study from three organizations – the Ford Foundation, the Williams Institute at UCLA, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund – have been denied by the organizations themselves.
Following Green’s retraction, Science published an “editorial expression of concern” “to alert our readers to the fact that serious questions have been raised about the validity of findings in the LaCour and Green paper.”
LaCour is standing by his findings. The graduate student tweeted on Wednesday that “I’m gathering evidence and relevant information so I can provide a single comprehensive response.”
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) condemned the mainstream media for uncritically trumpeting the study and blasted the “questionable” methodology of studies purporting to show overwhelming social benefits from redefining marriage.
NOM referenced a report by Louisiana State University professor and family studies expert Loren Marks, who examined 59 American Psychological Association-supported studies claiming that children raised by same-sex parents do as well as or better than those raised by opposite-sex parents. Marks found serious problems in all of the studies: among other issues, some studies had “no heterosexual comparison groups,” “single mothers were often used as the hetero comparison group,” and “(d)efinitive claims were not substantiated by the 59 published studies.”
Evidence opposing the redefinition of marriage has been loudly panned by mainstream media outlets, homosexual activist groups, and others. University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus’s July 2012 study on same-sex and opposite-sex parenting households, which earned ire from Politifact, the New York Times, and others, is the most famous example. An anti-redefinition amici curiae brief filed by “Same-Sex Attracted Men and Their Wives” in the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges garnered the derision of Slate, while Utah Valley University president Matthew Holland enraged UVU faculty by adding his signature to a brief from “100 Scholars of Marriage.”
The national campaign director for the homosexual activist group Freedom to Marry told Buzzfeed News that regardless of the dishonesty of the LaCour study, Freedom to Marry would continue its canvassing efforts. “The efficacy of it has been proven multiple times.”
The National Organization for Marriage said the retraction highlights “how the underlying methodologies of many- if not most -studies supporting the same-sex ‘marriage’ movement are questionable – often using small convenience samples featuring people who have an interest in a study turning out a particular way.”
“People – including Supreme Court Justices – would do well to remember these fake and flawed studies when the media trots out the next claim purporting to show how beneficial it will be if we redefine the most important social institution civilization has ever known,” they added.
How a Gay-Marriage Study Went Wrong
The New Yorker 22 May 2015
Last December, Science published a provocative paper about political persuasion. Persuasion is famously difficult: study after study—not to mention much of world history—has shown that, when it comes to controversial subjects, people rarely change their minds, especially if those subjects are important to them. You may think that you’ve made a convincing argument about gun control, but your crabby uncle isn’t likely to switch sides in the debate. Beliefs are sticky, and hardly any approach, no matter how logical it may be, can change that.
The Science study, “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality,” seemed to offer a method that could work. The authors—Donald Green, a tenured professor of political science at Columbia University, and Michael LaCour, a graduate student in the poli-sci department at U.C.L.A.—enlisted a group of canvassers from the Los Angeles L.G.B.T. Center to venture into the L.A. neighborhoods where voters had supported Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. The canvassers followed standardized scripts meant to convince those voters to change their minds through non-confrontational, one-on-one contact. Over the following nine months, the voters were surveyed at various intervals to see what those conversations had achieved. The survey highlighted a surprising distinction. When canvassers didn’t talk about their own sexual orientations, voters’ shifts in opinion were unlikely to last. But if canvassers were openly gay—if they talked about their sexual orientations with voters—the voters’ shifts in opinion were still in evidence in the survey nine months later. The messenger, it turned out, was just as important as the message. The study formed the basis for a segment of “This American Life,” and was featured on Science Friday and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. LaCour was offered a job at Princeton.
Doubts About Study of Gay Canvassers Rattles the Field
The New York Times 25 May 2015
“Last week, their finding that gay canvassers were in fact powerfully persuasive with people who had voted against same-sex marriage — published in December in Science, one of the world’s leading scientific journals — collapsed amid accusations that Mr. LaCour had misrepresented his study methods and lacked the evidence to back up his findings. On Tuesday, Dr. Green asked the journal to retract the study because of Mr. LaCour’s failure to produce his original data.”