Groups working to repeal the military's
15-year-old ban on gay and lesbian personnel serving openly are
criticizing the findings of a new Military Times poll. The
groups say the survey's results showing that a majority of troops
oppose repeal of the gay ban is flawed and biased.
The poll's results were published in
the December 29, 2008 Army Times article Troops Oppose
Repeal of “Don't Ask”. A majority of respondents (58%) said
they opposed openly gay service and 10% said they would not re-enlist
if the ban was lifted.
But Wednesday, the Palm Center, a think
tank at the University of California, said the Military Times
got it wrong.
Participants in the survey were drawn
from a volunteer pool of readers to the Military Times,
instead of a random sampling of active duty personnel. Those readers
tend to be older and more conservative than the military population
The publication itself points out some
of these problems: “The voluntary nature of the survey, the
dependence on e-mail and the characteristics of Military Times
readers could affect the results.”
Polling veteran Gary Langer who heads
polling for ABC News, said the survey was more of “a woefully
incomplete census” of who reads the Military Times than
anything else. “And in terms of their political and ideological
leanings, the participants look nothing at all like what good data
have found,” he recently wrote in a blog post.
Langer was referring to previous
surveys which showed remarkably different opinions.
A 2004 Annenberg poll found that a
slight majority of junior enlisted personnel favored openly gay
service. And a 2006 Zogby poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
found a large majority (72%) were “personally comfortable” around
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund,
a group that advocates for repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,”
also criticized the poll. “Reliable and scientifically based polls
... consistently reveal a profound and undeniable shift in attitudes
among service members, who support open service regardless of sexual
orientation,” the group said in a statement.
"While the media has reported it
as news that the military
opposes gay service,” Dr. Nathanial Frank, senior research fellow
at the Palm Center, said, “the trend is toward much greater
tolerance: the 58% figure, which would actually be closer to 50% in a
randomized poll, is a big drop from the 74% who opposed gay service
in 1993, when the current policy was created."
Several news sources did report on the
Military Times poll while omitting the fact that it relied on a
flawed sample, Fox News and
In a January 11 broadcast of Fox News,
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness,
repeated the poll's findings as factual, calling its results “more
credible.” Donnelly testified in Congress last year that her group
would like to see all gay men and women banned from serving in the
Donnelly used the poll data to prop up
her argument that repeal would “destroy” the military.
On the Net: The Palm Center's website
is at www.palmcenter.org