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Western New York radio station unfairly polling on same-sex marriage

Marriage equality

By Adam Bink

WBEN is a popular radio station back home in the Buffalo area, one I listened to all the time as a kid, and one to which my family still does. I always liked it, until today, when Alan Bedenko of WNYMedia told me their website is currently publishing this poll:

This is just unacceptable. Four choices for “gay marriage sucks”, and the only one that’s available for support is listed at the bottom, and it’s a milquetoast “I’m ‘ok’ with gay marriage”? And this is supposed to be fair? Online polls are not scientific, but this is just so far over the line it’s not even reasonable, it’s a poll that is so badly designed it appears it’s intended to elicit certain results. The other problem is, not only does it influence the individual taking the poll, but most people take a poll from a station like WBEN as fair, and so when the results are reported on the air, and the people listening to it talk about it, it unfairly influences those undecided in the debate.

WBEN’s station manager is Tim Wenger. Please drop Mr. Wenger a line and tell him to give fair representation to all sides. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Mr. Wenger,

I am a native Western New Yorker, having been born and raised in the Town of Tonawanda and attended Ken-Ton public schools until I went to the University of Rochester. My family still lives there, and News 930 WBEN is one of our favorite sources for news.

However, I was outraged that WBEN chose to publish what is an unfair representation of all sides in the debate over same-sex marriage in a poll on your website today. Four choices for opposing granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples? The choice for equality is at the bottom, and is a milquetoast “I’m ‘ok’ with gay marriage?” I realize online web polls are not scientific, but this is so far over the line that the results are not only NOT a reasonable representation of opinion in Western New York, but  will unfairly influence the debate when News 930 hosts and other news anchors around the region, members of the public, etc. discuss the results of this poll and how publicly opinion is wildly against legalizing same-sex marriage. This is unfair and unreasonable. Whatever one’s views on this issue, your poll does not give fair representation to all sides.

At Courage Campaign, our 700,000 members nationwide, including a significant portion in Western New York, are very concerned about both equality for same-sex couples and media bias. I have published a post on our blog alerting readers to this issue. WBEN needs to take down this poll and revise it immediately, if it insists on polling at all.

Yours,

Adam Bink

Director of Online Programs, Courage Campaign

And for all of you newfound Twitterers who asked Sen. Greg Ball to support equality, News 930 WBEN’s Twitter feed is @NewsRadio930. Here’s an example of what you can Tweet:

Tell Western NY @NewsRadio930 to stop unfairly polling on same-sex marriage http://bit.ly/kGEPxn via @buffalopundit

Update: You can also sign and retweet this act.ly petition just started:

http://act.ly/3tl

Update 2: Did anyone else notice something weird? The total vote counts dropped from over 1,300 with 59% support for equality to below 1,000 and equality is losing.

Alan Bedenko has screenshots:

Now, it’s back up to where it was before (funny enough, after Alan tweeted to WBEN about it):

Update 3: As of 3:33 PM EST, the one pro-equality choice is winning with 2,588 votes and 72% of the vote. Nice voting!

81 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Rich  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Adam, I have sent a message to Wenger. Let's get the word out on this.

  • 2. Adam Bink  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Thanks, Rich.

  • 3. tim  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:24 am

    It influences nobody. Its an internet poll.

  • 4. seth from maryland  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:26 am

    Negotiators Say ‘A Deal Is Near’ On Marriage Equality In New York | Via New York Post: “Negotiators for the Republican-run Senate privately admitted that a deal is near after aides spent the Father’s Day weekend ironing out language to appease ‘religious liberty’ concerns that have been raised by several fence-sitting GOP senators. And public pressure has reached a tipping point, as about 200 supporters of the bill held two raucous rallies near Union Square yesterday.” The vote will likely take place today.

  • 5. AnonyGrl  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:30 am

    I sent Mr. Wenger a note:

    "Marriage equality? I am MORE than "OK" with it. I am a strong supporter of marriage equality. I am, however, no longer a supporter of YOU. Your poll was ill conceived, biased, and just plain rude."

  • 6. Louis J. Marinelli  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:37 am

    This is nit-picky in my opinion. I'm from Western New York, too but when marriage equality organizations start campaigns based on the available responses in an 'unscientific poll' as Adam pointed out, and run a campaign against Orbitz because of where they advertise, it really makes these organizations look ridiculous and it drives away those 'undecided' people because they are fed up with the complaints about every little thing that upsets an online programs director at some gay rights organizations.

    Don't take this the wrong, way, I'm not trying to insult here but as a former opponent, I know what ticks people on that side off and this is among them. This is not how to reach out and change minds.

  • 7. Sam_Handwich  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Sam Handwich is voting early … and often.

  • 8. justjoel59  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Tweeted and retweeted, Adam. What a horrible poll! Kind of like: Do you still beat your wife? A) yes, when she deserves it B) yes, she likes it C) yes, it's fun D) not as much as I used to.

  • 9. Ann S.  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:45 am

    I'm with Sam Handwich.

  • 10. Nicole  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Seconded. Sorry Adam.

  • 11. LCH  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:55 am

    ♀♀=♂♂=♀♂=∑♡

  • 12. Adam Bink  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Folks, just started an act.ly petition, which is kind of like a petition using Twitter:
    http://act.ly/3tl

  • 13. Adam Bink  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:24 am

    The poll results will be reported both on the website and presumably on the air and influence opinion. Listeners take WBEN as a trusted news source and don't know the context of the poll questions. If you think that's a problem, it's useful to do something about it. If you don't, then we just have to agree to disagree.

  • 14. Gregory in SLC  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:39 am

    How do you feel about gay marriage?
    I'm opposed due to moral beliefs.
    38 Votes ( 2% )
    I'm opposed due to religious beliefs.
    45 Votes ( 3% )
    I just think it's wrong.
    102 Votes ( 7% )
    All of the above.
    426 Votes ( 28% )
    I'm "OK" with gay marriage.
    913 Votes ( 60% )

  • 15. Gregory in SLC  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:40 am

    vote! vote!

  • 16. Str8Grandmother  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Just voted
    All of the Above = 428
    I am okay with gay marriage = 1,038 (63%)

  • 17. LCH  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:52 am

    It's up to 1114 or 65% for "OK" now. Just voted.

    ♀♀=♂♂=♀♂=∑♡

  • 18. MRodgers  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Almost to 1200 – keep on voting!

  • 19. Nicole  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Lol, that's hilarious – great idea, just voted.

  • 20. Gregory in SLC  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:03 am

    tx 4 stopping by Louis!

  • 21. Michguy  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:06 am

    I just voted also.

  • 22. DazedWheels  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:14 am

    I voted.

  • 23. Franck  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Voted, voted, voted.

    – Franck P. Rabeson

    Days spent apart from my fiancé because of DOMA: 1459 days, as of today.

  • 24. Ham_Sandwich  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:19 am

    It's worth looking at their "Past poll results" .. some of the questions, like this one, are rather pointed, and the final result numbers almost always favor the conservative option. (This is talk radio, after all.) Perhaps the guy on the air now is required to lie about the current tally in order to appease the regular audience.

  • 25. Kilgore Trout  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:22 am

    THERE IS SOMETHING FISHY ABOUT THIS POLL WEBPAGE. When I refresh the page several times I see the poll results alternate between two totally different sets of results.

  • 26. Literalman  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:22 am

    This isn’t the battle to fight … I’m happy when all of our side’s votes go into a single category and the bastards split their votes into multiple categories.

  • 27. Gregory in SLC  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:24 am

    now "all of the above" is winning… whatever….

    How do you feel about gay marriage?
    I'm opposed due to moral beliefs.
    34 Votes ( 4% )
    I'm opposed due to religious beliefs.
    40 Votes ( 5% )
    I just think it's wrong.
    92 Votes ( 10% )
    All of the above.
    386 Votes ( 44% )
    I'm "OK" with gay marriage.
    331 Votes ( 37% )

    Total Votes: 883

  • 28. Steve  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:25 am

    The first two options are also the same. If you derive your morals on a secular value system you need to go to severe contortions to justify discrimination like that

  • 29. David Henderson  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Current results:

    moral: 47 Votes ( 2% )
    religious: 59 Votes ( 2% )
    wrong: 114 Votes ( 5% )
    all: 478 Votes ( 19% )
    "OK": 1818 Votes ( 72% )

    Total Votes: 2516

  • 30. Sam_Handwich  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Try this ….while at wben.com, rather than clicking "reload", click on their logo at the top left. the page will reload and the numbers will be different… currently shows .. 2% .. 2% … 4% … 19% … 73%

  • 31. DazedWheels  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I think they may be having some problems with their back-end system for this poll. I refreshed the page several times, and the votes and totals jumped back and forth. My last refresh shows "I'm 'OK'…" with 1945 votes, or 73%.

  • 32. LCH  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Yes I think it is rigged. When I last looked was up to 73% ok with over 1200 votes. I just looked again and it the total vote is around 928. Or maybe they can track via IP addresses and are filtering out the freepers.

  • 33. jpmassar  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I have a screenshot saved of the WBEN front page from 11:36 AM showing 74% support for marriage equality.

  • 34. Gregory in SLC  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Good job : D

  • 35. Gregory in SLC  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Thanks Seth

    ANY CURRENT UPDATES IN NY!?!? Anyone?

  • 36. nick  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Just voted for the third time. Am going to work where we have MANY computers – I'll be voting there too!

  • 37. David Henderson  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:54 am

    It looks like they have two (or more) webservers, and each one has their own results. As I reloaded the page multiple times, the results swapped back and forth between two completely different sets of numbers (increasing slightly between each reload). Here are the numbers on each as of the first time I loaded each one:

    35-44-97-399-499 (ok = 46%)

    53-66-123-537-2183 (ok = 74%)

    The "ok" numbers have been going up significantly, going up 5-10 for each 1 additional "not ok" vote. Currently on the "smaller" server, "ok" is at 49%.

  • 38. PoxyHowzes  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Louis — thanks for your informed opinion and advice. I have to agree that this is down in the range of "nit-pick," and I'd have to know better than I do which Senators WBEN might influence, but in general, I think one can't let something like this slide when you are fighting for everything. If the worst that can happen as a result of calling shenanigans is to p–ss off some folks who will never change their minds, then so be it, IMHO.

    Plus, as several other posts have mentioned, we are either making them count votes correctly or else exposing their lies. That's good, regardless of who gets mad. — Poxy

  • 39. Scott  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Just voted. Results are of course nonsensical, but at least we're making a point.

  • 40. wagonjak  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:08 am

    When I went there to vote it was at 73% OK with gay marraige and still rising!

  • 41. Ozymandias71  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Yeah… giving 4 options 'against' and one option 'for' Marriage Equality isn't biased… /eyeroll

    Pretty clear they were expecting the poll #s to go the other way… heh…

  • 42. Ozymandias71  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Interesting problem they're having… wonder if it's related to high 'hit' numbers?

  • 43. phoenix  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:12 am

    But but but if you have four options "against" and only one "for", you're splitting the "against" vote and the "for" numbers are going to be much higher.

    If the 2012 election were Obama vs. the top four GOPers in the clown car, who would win hands down?

  • 44. Kevin  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:12 am

    They're entering the chamber

  • 45. Alan_Eckert  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:13 am

    It's not called "freeping" a poll for no reason.

  • 46. Mark  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Hit them where it will hurt…file a complaint with the FCC… http://www.fcc.gov/complaints . If everyone on this site complains, it WILL get results.

  • 47. David Henderson  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Are they violating an FCC regulation? Which one? Last time I checked, freedom of the press allows the press to express a bias or ask leading questions, and freedom of speech allows we the people to call them on it without getting the government involved.

  • 48. Gregory in SLC  |  June 20, 2011 at 9:30 am

    http://www.nysenate.gov/live_today

    760 viewers

  • 49. SFBay  |  June 20, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Here's the latest polling:

    How do you feel about gay marriage?

    I'm opposed due to moral beliefs.
    93 Votes ( 2% )

    I'm opposed due to religious beliefs.
    115 Votes ( 3% )

    I just think it's wrong.
    179 Votes ( 4% )

    All of the above.
    815 Votes ( 19% )

    I'm "OK" with gay marriage.
    3024 Votes ( 72% )

    Total Votes: 4226

    The statiion is obviously a right wing mouthpeice. I don't expect the talk show hosts to talk about this poll. It's going all wrong for them.

  • 50. keltic  |  June 20, 2011 at 10:20 am

    if the "undecided" view this poll and believe that it is fair and balanced, then they aren't really the "moveable middle", so I'm gonna have to agree with Adam on this one. it is not only about good news reporting, as we already know this is being proclaimed on WBEN's airwaves, it is also about the dignity of gay and lesbian relationships. WBEN has made it clear how they expect their listeners to respond, then they intend to use the results from their poll to influence even more listeners.

  • 51. Ray  |  June 20, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Yea! I just went to WBEN.COM and voted myself…

    How do you feel about gay marriage?

    I'm opposed due to moral beliefs. 102 Votes ( 2% )
    I'm opposed due to religious beliefs. 121 Votes ( 3% )
    I just think it's wrong. 186 Votes ( 4% )
    All of the above. 862 Votes ( 19% )

    I'm "OK" with gay marriage. 3212 Votes (72%)

    Total Votes: 4483

    Looks like whoever thought that poll was a good idea is going to have egg all over his face in the morning! Love it!

  • 52. Str8Grandmother  |  June 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

    "Am going to work where we have MANY computers"…he-he-he-he, smirk

  • 53. Str8Grandmother  |  June 20, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Mark, check this out. If you find something they are violating I'll file a complaint, heck I bet we all will.

  • 54. James Sweet  |  June 20, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Oh noes, there is a pointless and stupid push poll on the Internet.

  • 55. Mark Mead-Brewer  |  June 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    What FCC reg are they violating?

  • 56. SoCal_Dave  |  June 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    After my "OK" vote, it showed 73% OK.
    I refreshed the page a couple of times since and the percentage is holding at 73, but the total vote count goes down as well as up (?)
    I've read persuasive arguments on both sides of the Orbitz thing, but I don't see any possible justification for these lopsided poll choices. Sure, online polls are unscientific, but they don't have to be so obviously biased.

  • 57. Lynn E  |  June 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    WBEN is a well-known CONSERVATIVE news radio station. Would you expect a scientific poll? If the results of the poll don't go as they expect, they will just bury it in the news shuffle, and not report it. Or a "computer glitch" will provide the responses they wish to report. Considering the station hosted the Rush Limbaugh programme last time I passed through Western New York, I doubt listeners will consider anything reported on that station to be unbiased.

  • 58. Chris in Lathrop  |  June 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Sorry, Louis, but I'm with Adam on this one. The decision, as I've opined numerous times, belongs in the court system, but public opinion is also key. You know this quite well, as it's the MO of your former colleagues to exploit public opinion. WBEN has an audience, and that audience is being subtly misled, just as NOM continues to do.

  • 59. Sam_Handwich  |  June 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Results are now 2% ~ 2% ~ 4% ~ 17% ~ 75% WOOO HOOOOOOOOO!

  • 60. Rhie  |  June 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I like it! Short sweet and to the point.

  • 61. Rhie  |  June 20, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I would agree with you except for one thing: people are stupid. Very, very, very stupid. They are also easily led by the most ridiculous things – including radio station polls and what companies like Orbitz support. The fact is that everything – from internet polls to using gay as a synonym for stupid – matters because EVERYTHING matters. If rational arguments and scientific polls were the things that mattered, organizations like NOM would go out of business in a day. You even admit that yourself.

  • 62. NY Same-Sex Marriage: Eve&hellip  |  June 20, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    [...] at upstate NY radio station WBEN, seems good people were able to select the right choice. Thanks to Courage Campaign’s Adam Bink for alerting [...]

  • 63. Maggie4NoH8  |  June 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    OK – Now the poll is completely gone!!! Replaced by:

    How do you think the issue of gay marriage should be decided?
    Legislative action
    108 Votes ( 68% )
    Voter referendum
    51 Votes ( 32% )

    Total Votes: 159

    I looked in the archives, nowhere to be found. Guess they didn't like the results? Maybe they could get the ADF to run their online polls?

    PS – it is 5:12 PM Pacific time…

  • 64. John  |  June 20, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Reviewing their older polls, they frequently are along the order of "BUSH – Great President or THE GREATEST President?" and "UNIONS – THREAT OR HAZARD?", they are useless and intended to produce the result they must. Last time I saw the old poll, there were nearly 5,000 votes for "OK" and 6,000 overall, when their normal totals are closer to 1,000 total votes for all sides. This would indicate tampering to them, so they feel vindicated in hiding the totals and starting over with a "Heads I win, Tails you lose" replacement.

  • 65. Rick  |  June 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Yup – just noticed the poll is gone, too, with the legislation/referendum question replacing it (legislation is leading, btw). Also noticed that the former question is not archived. I, too, wrote to complain about the earlier question. Hopefully they responded to pressure. WBEN is definitely a conservative talk radio station, though some of the individual (local) show hosts have been generally sympathetic to gay issues. I have gone head-to-head with a couple of them on transgender issues, though. It's pretty awful listening to the callers who tend to represent the more ignorant element of Western NY.

  • 66. Chrys  |  June 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I'd think that this is still something that those opposing marriage equality would love to be able to cherry-pick, I'm afraid. "A recent New York poll showed x number opposed to gay marriage" sounds like all too possible a quote.

  • 67. Sagesse  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Well now isn't this topical…

    Gay marriage poll released by religious right group was intentionally skewed
    http://washingtonindependent.com/111398/gay-marri

    Be sure to follow the link at the bottom to the poll questions.

  • 68. Sagesse  |  June 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    The grassroots in New York

    Inevitability of marriage for gays stirs exultation
    http://www.buffalonews.com/city/politics/article4

  • 69. Ozymandias71  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I just noticed it myself… and like others have said they are *very* selective on which polls stay in the archive. Typical – evidence doesn't support someone's anti-Gay bigotry? 'What evidence? There's no evidence!' Good thing we've got this whole shameful episode recorded! :)

  • 70. Ozymandias71  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Public Opinion Strategies was hired to do the poll? POS – hilarity and irony!

  • 71. JonT  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    And the money quote:

    "If it happens, fantastic," Bisuito said. "But if it doesn't, I'm 100 percent confident it will happen some day. We are the winning team."
    :)

  • 72. JonT  |  June 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    It shit like this that convinces me we will win in the end…

    At least we don't need to lie, deceive, or 'hide' evidence that does not support our claims…

    They do. Very telling. It will be their undoing in the end. :)

    BTW: I didn't bother with the poll, kinda guessed how it would be 'handled' :)

  • 73. the lone ranger  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    I guess that means the people who set up this biased poll aren't even smart enough to set one up in which their viewpoint would win.

  • 74. the lone ranger  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    It's unfortunate that the screenshots don't show the times, so that it's unequivocal that the later result shows less votes than the earlier ones.

    Nonetheless, it's an obviously slanted poll, and the foolish authors didn't realize that (a) by offering 4 negative choices and only one positive choice, the negative vote would be split making the positive result seem even more lopsided, and (b) even if the results of the 4 negative choices are added together, the positive choice still wins. The people have spoken, and equality wins… no doubt much to the dismay of the bigots at WBEN.

  • 75. John  |  June 20, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Let's be honest with ourselves, the reason for the runaway win for "OK" (before it was hidden) is because it had a national reaction, from people here and elsewhere that were notified of the outrage and went to a site they've never been to, for a station they never heard of before now, and voted. Pro-ban people were NOT so motivated to get a national stir, and they lost mightily. This is not a representative victory, just a slap back.

  • 76. John  |  June 20, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    "Just a slap back:… not that there's anything WRONG with that…

  • 77. _BK_  |  June 21, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Electoral activists!

    Edit: I forgot to put /sarcasm…

  • 78. Sam_Handwich  |  June 21, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Today's poll is less intellectually offensive, but still presents a false option (as i'm not aware of any pending legislation that calls for a referendum vote on marriage equality):

    How do you think the issue of gay marriage should be decided?
    Legislative action 531 Votes ( 53% )
    Voter referendum 478 Votes ( 47% )
    http://www.wben.com/

    But, it got me thinking…. (and i am not familiar with the ballot initiative process in NY)…. Is it possible that, should the senate pass the current marriage bill, the anti-equality folks could mount an effort to repeal via referendum? We fought that battle here in Mass, but managed to defeat it in the legislature.

  • 79. AnonyGrl  |  June 21, 2011 at 6:25 am

    We don't have a ballot initiative here in NY, so anything that makes it to a vote of the people has to go through the legislature first. A constitutional amendment has to pass the legislature twice (I think) before it even gets to the ballot. If anti-equality folks want to push for a repeal, they would need to do it legislatively… there is no "letting the people vote" on law here.

    Also, I think that once we get this passed, there will be no turning back. Of course that is just my personal opinion, and I am not a legislator. Hmm… maybe I should run for Senate.

  • 80. Charlie Galvin  |  June 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Also why no option in today's poll for the court's to order equality on constitutional grounds?

  • 81. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  June 28, 2011 at 10:21 am

    [...] week, I wrote about the News 930 WBEN poll (WBEN is a popular radio station back home in Western New York) providing [...]

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