NATIONAL AFFAIRS by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
The odd couple behind the same-sex marriage push
, August 16, 2014
Just before federal parliament rose for the winter recess, poll results were announced, almost simultaneously in the two major news networks, News Limited and John Fairfax, that Australians overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage.
The Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald both headlined, “Support growing for same-sex marriage”. It quoted the poll conducted by the Liberal Party’s pollster, Mark Textor, as saying that “support among Australians for same-sex marriage and for a conscience vote on the issue in the Coalition has reached an all-time high” (SMH, July 15, 2014).
It added that the poll “is expected to bring a renewed push from marriage equality advocates, who will begin targeting Coalition MPs in earnest on the back of growing public support for same-sex marriage”.
The Australian announced that legislation for same-sex marriage was now “inevitable”. This was after publishing a survey that 39 per cent of Australians were “strongly in favour” of same-sex marriage. (On the same day another question showed that a far higher proportion of Australians consider this country to be racist, but no headlines there.)
Before one accepts these surveys at face value, it is important to look at them in detail.
The survey, which was conducted by the Liberal Party pollster, the Crosby Textor Group — the creation of veteran campaign strategists Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor — was commissioned by the homosexual rights organisation, Australian Marriage Equality (AME).
In announcing the results of the survey on its website, Crosby Textor quoted the national director of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome.
He said: “With Australians across all key demographics supporting marriage equality in record numbers, it’s fair to say the public has made up its mind, the community debate is over, and it’s time for politicians to act.
“We will be using this landmark research to work with government members who have yet to declare support for reform to show them they have nothing to fear.
“With Australians firmly behind marriage equality, it no longer needs to be a heated or divisive issue and can instead be one where people unite across the political spectrum to achieve reform.
“It is also significant that support for marriage equality is now higher in Australia than in many other countries when they achieved the reform.”
Mark Textor, the Liberal Party pollster, added: “The fact that nearly three-quarters of Australians support allowing gay couples to marry is exciting in itself — rarely do you get such a clear-cut endorsement.
“But the really exciting part for me is the long-term trend; support rising steadily from just 38% when Newspoll first posed the question a decade ago.
“Support for same-sex marriage has doubled since 2004, and is still rising. The seismic shift in public attitudes towards marriage equality is undeniable. Almost everyone agrees that this is the right thing to do and there is no need to have a grand fight on this issue.”
While Mr Textor’s enthusiasm was palpable, perhaps this should be seen in the light of his long-standing support for same-sex marriage.
As long ago as 2011, participating in a discussion on ABC television’s 7.30 Report about the ALP’s oscillations on same-sex marriage in the run-up to the party’s national conference, he said that the Gillard Labor government should “get on and do it” (ABC 7.30 Report, June 29, 2011).
Graeme Morris, one of the Liberal Party’s most astute advisers, told Deborah Snow in the Canberra Times recently that as Mr Textor became more assertive about how his numbers should inform strategy, there was push-back from some inside the Liberal Party organisation in both Victoria and New South Wales.
He said: “There were times where his dogmatic approach was counter-productive. Even if the advice was good, ears were half closed to him, because Tex had harangued them for a while, insisting that people had to do x, y or z” (Canberra Times, May 3, 2014).
While Mark Textor is undoubtedly a brilliant pollster, and played a key role in John Howard’s successful election campaigns, he has been criticised for what is known as “push polling”, which is designed to produce a particular result, and for letting his personal enthusiasms cloud his judgment.
Textor flatly denies this, and has sued several of his political opponents who have made the allegation. He told the Canberra Times: “I absolutely dispute the claim [of push polling]. It’s wrong, and if you attempt to damage me with this flawed and intellectually corrupted accusation, I will damage you.”
In relation to same-sex marriage, however, he has made his position quite clear.
Doug Mainwaring is an American homosexual who opposes same-sex marriage. He wrote recently: “The American people have not fallen in love with the notion of same-sex marriage — not by a long shot. So how did the radical left gain the upper hand in the same-sex marriage debate? Proponents of same-sex marriage haven’t won in the arena of ideas — they have won through manipulation.
“The moral high ground the radical left seems to enjoy is extremely fragile, because its popular support has been fabricated” (The Public Discourse, June 9, 2014).