“Rudd take on gay marriage pulls in voters,” yelled one July 14, 2013 headline in The Age. As Dan Harrison and Chris Johnson uncritically reported:
Kevin Rudd’s support for same-sex marriage could significantly lift Labor’s vote [emphasis mine] in the election, a new poll shows.
A survey of 1000 people, conducted by Galaxy Research for Australian Marriage Equality, found 30 per cent of voters would be more likely to vote for Labor as a result of Mr Rudd’s stance on the issue, while 19 per cent said they would be less likely to vote for Labor.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said the poll showed same-sex marriage could be a decisive issue in a tight election contest.
So how did that work out? Clearly, same-sex marriage didn’t significantly lift Labor’s vote, so was The Age simply echoing the false optimism of same-sex marriage lobbyists?
What’s more, there were no follow-up pieces. Indeed, such propaganda pieces (and there are many) invite the question: Was same-sex marriage a decisive election issue?
Such propaganda techniques were also used by SBS in the campaigning piece, “Kevin Rudd launches gay marriage campaign,” dated August 13, 2013. As Rhiannon Elston uncritically reported:
Gay marriage has taken a central role [emphasis mine] in Labor leader Kevin Rudd’s bid to win the 2013 election, with the launch of a new campaign aiming to galvanise voters who support the issue.
In a new YouTube video posted overnight, Mr Rudd acknowledged he has not always been in support of the change but said he would support marriage quality legislation within the first 100 days of parliament if elected.
So, how did that work out? Why is there now a lack of interest in gay marriage’s “central role” to Kevin Rudd’s campaign? And, why weren’t voters suddenly galvanised?
The gay-marriage-is-a-vote-winner narrative was also reinforced by stacking opinion pieces. In a representative piece, Adam Pulford pontificated in The Drum (“Gay marriage is a vote changer for young people” – 20 August, 2013):
Rudd committed to supporting a bill legalising same-sex marriage in the first 100 days of the new Parliament, should Labor be re-elected. The ALP also subsequently launched their own ‘It’s Time for Marriage Equality’ campaign to further reach out to the electorate.
These are smart moves by Rudd and Labor, especially to reengage and invigorate the youth vote – a powerful force in Australian politics.
Of course, stacking opinion pieces for same-sex marriage is also a sign of editorial campaigning. It too shows a lack of respect for intellectual diversity, especially in a taxpayer-funded media context.
As critical readers, surely we have the right to ask our media organs to consistently present at least two sides to every debate. In fact, I demand fair journalism.
Specifically, I demand critical-thinking reports on so-called gay marriage polls with lead questions. And, I demand follow-up stories, because without them, the term journalism ethics means nothing.