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PoliGraph: lawmaker's claim relies on just one source

Inconclusive image.GIFMinnesota Republicans are aiming to put issues on the ballot in 2012 election, among them a constitutional amendment that would define marriage in Minnesota as only between a man and a woman.

"I know that 78 percent...of the people in Minnesota want this decision to be given to them on a ballot," said bill sponsor Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, during an April 26, 2011, press conference.

Limmer's numbers are coming from one poll commissioned by groups that support a statewide vote on the issue.

The Evidence

The Senate has approved the amendment, and the House is expected to. Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota, but Limmer and other supporters of the bill say that changing the state constitution is necessary to prevent the law from being overturned.

One recent poll backs Limmer's contention that a broad majority of the public wants the issue on the ballot, about 74 percent of Minnesota voters. (Limmer's spokeswoman Susan Closmore said that he incorporated the 4 percentage point margin of error when making the statement.)

But it's important to highlight where those numbers are coming from. The poll, which surveyed about 600 Minnesota voters Jan. 10-13, 2011, was commissioned by the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage, two organizations that support the amendment.

Furthermore, the company hired to conduct the poll, Lawrence Research, is operated by pollster Gary Lawrence, who, according to news reports in the Minnesota Independent and the Washington Post, organized members of the Mormon Church Mormons in support of Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution that prevents gay marriage from being recognized by the state. Lawrence did not return calls to provide more details on his polling results.

So, Limmer is basing his claim on one poll commissioned by organizations that support putting a marriage amendment to a vote.

There's little current information for comparison, but polls done in 2009 and 2010 provide some context:

• A 2009 KSTP/SurveyUSA poll found that only 52 percent of Minnesotans would support a statewide vote to ban gay marriage.
• A 2010 Minnesota Public Radio News/Humphrey School of Public Affairs poll showed that 49 percent of Minnesotans oppose same-sex marriage.
• A 2009 Star Tribune poll found that a third of Minnesotans would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

The Verdict

Limmer's claim is rooted in a survey commissioned by two groups that have a stake in the debate over same-sex marriages. Because there are no other current polls to compare Limmer's numbers to, this PoliGraph test rates an inconclusive.

-- By Catharine Richert

SOURCES

TheUptake, Constitutional Amendment Defining Marriage Press Conferences, April 26, 2011

The Minnesota Family Council, Let the people vote on marriage!, by Chuck Darrell, April 14, 2011

The Minnesota Independent, Details scant on marriage amendment poll touted by GOP, by Andy Birkey, May 6, 2001

The Star Tribune, Minnesota Poll: A Subtle shift on gay unions, by Mark Brunswick, May 1, 2009

Minnesota Public Radio News, Poll shows slight shift in gay marriage opinions, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 28, 2006

Results of KSTP/SurveyUSA Poll, May 11, 2009

Minnesota Public Radio News, MPR-Humphrey Poll: Obama could struggle in MN in 2012, by Mark Zdechlik, Sept. 30, 2010

Smart Politics, How Supportive Are Minnesotans of Gay Rights?, by Eric Ostermeier, Oct. 11, 2009

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