Co-author disavows study on changing opinions of same-sex marriage

nyt-screen-grab-gay-study.jpgThe co-author of a much-publicized study that seemed to show it was easy to change people's minds about same-sex marriage with a short conversation has asked Science to retract the findings. Donald P. Green, a researcher at Columbia University, says there are newly discovered irregularities in the collected data that his co-author, Michael LaCour of UCLA, could not explain. The issues were uncovered by two students at Berkeley and professor at Stanford and reported by Retraction Watch.

From the Washington Post:

The study purported to show the ease with which peoples’ minds can be changed on the subject of same-sex marriage after short conversations, particularly with gay advocates. It was described as being based on survey research conducted in California after voters passed Proposition 8, the referendum that banned same-sex marriage in the state and that has since been struck down by the courts.

The co-author, Donald P. Green of Columbia University, acted on his own to request a retraction from Science in a memo dated May 19…

Green said two University of California-Berkeley graduate students who had attempted their own research “brought to my attention a series of irregularities that called into question the integrity of the data we present.”

When Green’s co-author, Michael LaCour, was shown the information, Green said he could not provide the survey data he claimed to have collected. Nor would LaCour provide “the contact information of survey respondents so their participation in the survey could be verified…,” Green said.


The study attracted widespread attention in part because it seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom and scholarship about how people cling to their own points of view, sometimes regardless of what they read or hear to the contrary.

The Berkeley students and Stanford professor, David Brockman, report their case in a paper you can read here. LaCour, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at UCLA, had a brief comment on Twitter:

The original study was reported all over the place as a simple explanation for why polls are finding such a dramatic shift in public opinion in favor of same-sex marriage. "This American Life" built an episode around the notion.

This seems to be unrelated, but the Retraction Watch website appears to currently be in suspended status — which can typically mean an issue between the website and its server host, often over payment, registration or a traffic overload.

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