Today I served on the resource panel (i.e., a panel of legal, social work, theological, and statistical experts) for a deliberative poll on the question of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. The poll was taken at four sites across the state—I was on the resource panel at the southwestern Pennsylvania site at Carnegie Mellon University. The poll was sponsored by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy.
As I’ve blogged before, earlier this year the Pennsylvania legislature considered an amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage, equivalent legal statuses, and potentially far more. The idea behind the deliberative poll is to get the informed opinion of a sample of the population on this question, rather than obtaining a snapshot view from people who may not have given much, if any, thought to the question prior to answering a pollster’s questions, as happens in a typical poll.
As part of the deliberative poll process, the participants read background materials, then participate in small group discussions of the issue. Then each of the small groups has a chance to ask questions of the resource panel. The small groups then reconvene for further discussion, and finally fill out the survey at the end of the day.
The preliminary results from the poll indicate that 70% of those participating across Pennsylvania today supported the legal recognition of same-sex relationships either through same-sex marriage or civil unions. More detailed results will be available over the next couple of weeks (so check back later at the previous link in the coming weeks, if you are interested).
Hopefully, the state legislature will take these poll results into account when it considers the proposed marriage amendment to the state constitution again—in all likelihood, next year.
Quite an interesting experiment!