Groundbreaking Study On Gay Marriage Views May Have Been Faked

A seemingly groundbreaking and widely publicized study reported in Science magazine this past December may be a fake.

The study appeared to show that openly gay activists in California had persuaded conservative voters to change their minds in a lasting way by engaging the voters in “heartfelt, reciprocal and vulnerable conversations” about being gay during door-to-door advocacy campaigns. It was co-authored by Michael J. LaCour, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Donald P. Green, a professor at Columbia University.

For the gay rights movement, this was good news. It suggested that the country’s shift on gay rights was, at least in part, the movement’s doing, and it provided a template for advocacy going forward. Gay rights advocates in Ireland reportedly based their strategy before a national vote on same-sex marriage this week on LaCour and Green’s results.

But according to a report issued Tuesday by two University of California, Berkeley, graduate students and a Yale professor, there are enough questions about the data to warrant retracting the study. Retraction Watch broke the story Wednesday about what students David Broockman (soon to be an assistant professor at Stanford) and Joshua Kalla and Yale professor Peter Aronow found.

The LaCour-Green study had examined the work of activists with the Los Angeles LGBT Center. After California’s gay marriage ban passed in 2008, activists at the center had more than 12,000 one-on-one conversations in Los Angeles neighborhoods with people who overwhelmingly supported the ban. LaCour’s idea was to see if those conversations produced any lasting change. He purportedly designed a randomized experiment to replicate those conversations, with a series of follow-up surveys online to test how the anti-gay voters felt about gay rights and gay marriage over time. Those who were contacted by the —> Read More