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 at-large.

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 gays.

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 Newsweek included.

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 military.

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