Scott Rose Investigative Journalist 2000 Broadway, Apt 5K New York, NY 10023

September 5, 2012 J. Michael Dennis, Ph.D. Government and Academic Research +1 650 289 2160

RE: Your information request of August 30, 2012 Dear Mr. Rose, We are happy to answer, as best we can, your questions regarding Mr. Darren Sherkat’s forthcoming article to be published in Social Science Research and more generally, the original article authored by Mr. Mark Regnerus in Social Science Research. The essential point here is to clarify the role of Knowledge Networks (now part of GfK Custom Research, LLC) in conducting the study. We provided the sample of respondents, programmed the questionnaire into an online mode of survey delivery, administered the survey online to the respondents, and then compiled and delivered the survey data. Mr. Regnerus, not Knowledge Networks, owned exclusively the tasks of designing the survey sample plan, preparing and drafting the survey questions, analyzing the data, and interpreting the data. This division of responsibilities is quite common in our work with the government and academic communities. Most of the criticisms made by Mr. Sherkat are more accurately directed toward the author of the original article, Mr. Regnerus. We have consistently achieved 93% and higher approval ratings from our customers in our customer satisfaction surveys, and we conducted this survey with the same rigor and care that we provide our other government and academic clients. One of the main factors underlying our customers’ ® satisfaction is our use of KnowledgePanel as the sample source for most of our survey projects. The American Association of Public Opinion Researchers (AAPOR) Online Task Force Report clearly states in its recommendations that a probability-based web panel, of which KnowledgePanel is the only panel in the U.S., should be used by researchers when the goal is to measure accurately the characteristics of a population. KnowledgePanel is acknowledged by many as the gold standard in high-quality online population research.

GfK Custom Research, LLC 2100 Geng Rd, Suite 210 Palo Alto, CA 94303 USA Tel. +1 650 289 2000 Fax +1 650 289 2001


Below are specific notes on observations made by Mr. Sherkat in his manuscript.


Mr. Sherkat wrote: Given the standards that prevail, it is likely that the recruitment rate is extremely low for both the RDD and “address based” sampling. Mr. Sherkat is referring to the response rate in the panel recruitment for KnowledgePanel. The documented response rates for KnowledgePanel recruitment are consistent with response rates reported by academic researchers in their work published in peer-reviewed social science and policy journals.


Mr. Sherkat wrote: And, given that only 1.7% of respondents were (mis)classified as children of “gays” or “lesbians,” these data are certainly not up to the task of adequately informing our understanding of same sex parenting. The Regnerus study results are not based exclusively on the representativeness of the study sample. An important factor in producing any error in the statistics is the wording of the actual survey questions. As noted above, Knowledge Networks did not write or design the survey questions for this study.


Mr. Sherkat wrote: Regnerus’ web page shows that the panel has suffered 34% attrition (what are called “withdrawn panelists”), and only 61.6% of the current panel responded to the Regnerus survey. To clarify, the 34% statistic refers to the share of the survey sample invited to the study that was from former KnowledgePanel members (so-called “withdrawn panelists”). The rest of the invited sample was from current members of KnowledgePanel. The use of former KnowledgePanel members to supplement current Knowledge Panel members is common practice in studies that are focused on subpopulations. A 61.6% survey completion rate is comparable to completion rates obtained by Knowledge Networks for many other studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals, and outperforms the 4% to 5% completion rates obtained by opt-in web panels.


Mr. Sherkat wrote: Given that withdrawn respondents were likely withdrawn because of concerns about their reliability as members of the data panel---it is inappropriate to have 11% of the fictive children of “gays and lesbians” recruited from these withdrawn panelists. Panel members are withdrawn for a variety of reasons. For example,

KnowledgePanel is based on a rotating panel design whereby cohorts of randomly selected panelists are retired after regular intervals of time spent on the panel. By way of another example, we withdraw panelists from KnowledgePanel if they do not participate in our surveys after some period of time.


Mr. Sherkat wrote: Predictably, there are several red flags in these data. The “nationally representative” panel is 32.7% male and 67.3% female. Because of the Regnerus study’s population requirements we sampled all the KnowledgePanel members in a certain age range. This is a departure from our normal practice and prevented us from employing our standard technique for drawing panel samples that employs probability-based sample stratification. Mr. Regnerus was notified of this modification in our procedures.


Mr. Sherkat wrote: Nobody should expect to publish a paper in a journal of the tier of Social Science Research on crucial questions using data collected in this manner. Indeed, the “gold standard” of research on family outcomes would require a randomly drawn sample of parents and children followed longitudinally and interviewed by a professional field interviewer. It’s unclear to us to what extent Mr. Sherkat’s italicized conclusion is directed at KnowledgePanel as a sample source, as opposed to the other aspects of the survey design such as question wording. Mr. Sherkat is of course entitled to his opinion on what is the “gold standard of research on family outcomes.” Surveys conducted in person with field interviewers using probability-based samples are becoming increasingly rare because of the growing costs of such research, shrinking budgets, decreasing response rates, and the logistical difficulties of conducting such interviews in gated communities and secured buildings. The KnowledgePanel approach over the last ten years has become the gold standard for webbased surveys of public opinion.

Below are responses to your specific questions and notes. Where Regnerus asked respondents "Have you ever masturbated?" he gave them the option to decline to respond; and 110 respondents declined to respond. But, out of 2,988 respondents, 620 adults between the ages of 18 and 39 said that they have never once in their lives masturbated.


Does KN stand behind the Regnerus finding that in the US population, out of every 2,988 adults aged 18 to 39, 620 have never masturbated? Regnerus does claim that his data and findings have statistical power. Because of the role of the questionnaire and other design elements in producing the study results, we would refer these questions to Mr. Regnerus. There are some who suspect, quite frankly, that Regnerus is in political collusion with his anti-gay-rights study funders. Previous studies done of lesbian mothers consistently said that lesbian mothers' children experienced low levels of childhood sexual victimization. But, Regnerus's data showed that a jaw-dropping 23% of lesbian mothers' children experience childhood sexual victimization. And, that 23% figure for lesbian mothers is almost double the next highest rate, that for stepfamilies, which is reported as 12%. Because of the role of the questionnaire and other design elements in producing the study results, we would refer these questions to Mr. Regnerus. Additionally, Regnerus's wording of the question on his survey is so vague that the responses are not interpretable. He asked whether the respondents as a child had ever been sexually abused by "a parent or adult guardian." And there were no follow up questions about sex abuse. So, any number of adult figures could have committed the alleged sex abuse of the child. It could have been the respondent's heterosexual father, divorced from the "lesbian mother." It could have been a priest or a babysitter. It could have been the heterosexual father's uncle, or brother. One just does not know. Yet, Regnerus and his funders report to the public that children of lesbian mothers experience dramatically elevated levels of childhood sex abuse. This is especially suspicious, because Regnerus's funders have long and shameful records of conflating all homosexuals with pedophiles, a known falsehood. So, in view of the 620-adults-who-have-never-masturbated finding, I want to know if KN puts its company support resolutely behind Regnerus's finding that 23% of lesbian mothers' children experience childhood sex abuse. Because of the role of the questionnaire and other design elements in producing the study results, we would refer these questions to Mr. Regnerus. Additionally, I wish to know if Knowledge Networks provided any advice to Regnerus on the phrasing of his survey questions. Do any KN people review surveys and point out defects and suggest changing the wording of glaringly defective questions? I should think it would be evident to any experienced survey person, that the way Regnerus phrased his sex abuse question would produce an uninterpretable result. We did not provide Mr. Regnerus any advice on question wording.


We know that Regnerus boasts of having consulted with some "liberal" scholars on his study design, but those liberal scholars report that Regnerus ignored their advice. Perhaps KN made suggestions to Regnerus which Regnerus ignored. I am requesting that you furnish me with all of your communications between KN, Regnerus and his full team, and any and all persons of the Witherspoon Institute and/or the National Organization for Marriage. To make a very specific additional request, please let me see the recruitment letters/e-mails that you sent to KN panel members, explaining what the study was about. If you sent differently worded recruitment levels for different family structures, please be sure to show me the texts of all of your various recruitment messages for the Regnerus study. Those materials are available from the University of Texas through the Open Record Request you filed. We have made no objection to the State of Texas in sharing those records with you or others who make a request for these materials.


J. Michael Dennis, Ph.D. Managing Director Government & Academic Research GfK Custom Research, LLC

Cc: Lori Halivopoulos, Senior Vice President, Marketing Communications, GfK Custom Research, LLC


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