The only thing revealed by polls on Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill is that polling sucks

Why it's harder than ever to get accurate results

A poll.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

Do Americans support or oppose Florida's House Bill 1557, which is officially known as the "Parental Rights in Education" but is almost universally described as the "Don't Say Gay Bill"? You'd think it would be an easy question to answer. Call up a few thousand people, ask their opinions, and tabulate the responses. Problem solved.

Except it's not that simple. A lot of people don't pick up the phone or talk to strangers, so pollsters must call many times the number of respondents they need in order to amass a statistically adequate sample. Those respondents must be asked a battery of other questions to determine their demographic characteristics. Because there's no guarantee that the people who answer calls will be representative, their actual numbers must be weighted to correspond to estimates of the makeup of the broader population based on yet other polls. That's before you even ask the question, which can be formulated in ways that encourage or deter certain responses. And of course you have to hope respondents answer honestly, rather than in ways they consider socially or politically desirable but don't correspond to their real opinions.

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Samuel Goldman

Samuel Goldman is a national correspondent at He is also an associate professor of political science at George Washington University, where he is executive director of the John L. Loeb, Jr. Institute for Religious Freedom and director of the Politics & Values Program. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard and was a postdoctoral fellow in Religion, Ethics, & Politics at Princeton University. His books include God's Country: Christian Zionism in America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) and After Nationalism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). In addition to academic research, Goldman's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.