Poll: 76% of potential recruits don’t object to gays in military
ARLINGTON, Va. — A majority of potential military recruits would not object to serving alongside openly gay servicemembers, according to a recent survey by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military.
The group, a research unit of the University of California, Santa Barbara, reported that 76 percent of survey respondents said lifting the Defense Department’s ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military would have “no effect” on their decision to enlist. Two percent said it would increase their likelihood to enlist, and another 21 percent said it would discourage them from enlisting.
Those surveyed, 282 people total, were all between 18 and 24 years old, mostly male, 53 percent Republican and 30 percent independent — demographics targeted to mirror people most likely to join the military, said Aaron Belkin, director of the center.
He admitted that surveying mostly conservative people may have skewed the results, but he defended the decision.
“If we had done a random sample, we would have found more people saying that they’d join the military if the ban is lifted, and fewer saying that they would be less likely to join post-repeal,” Belkin wrote in an e-mail.
The survey is one of six polls in the last two-and-a-half years that have found that between 58 and 79 percent of the public believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, according to the Center.
Belkin, a political science professor at the school, said the group has no stance on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The Center’s stated mission is to “promote the study of gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities in the armed forces.”
Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke declined direct comment on the survey, but she noted the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was enacted after “extensive hearings and debate” among lawmakers in 1993.
“The law would need to be changed to affect the department’s policy,” she said.
Two gay and lesbian rights advocacy groups — Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Log Cabin Republicans — have filed lawsuits in recent years to overturn the policy against openly gay servicemembers.
Steve Ralls, of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the recent survey undermines a fundamental tenant of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by showing that allowing gays to serve openly would not hurt recruiting.
“It is further evidence that the doom and gloom prophecies of those who oppose allowing gays to serve openly are baseless and without merit,” Ralls said.
Chris Baron, spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans, said removing openly gay servicemembers from critical positions while the United States is at war with terrorism poses a danger to national security.
He said other countries, such as Israel, allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
“I think very few people would make the argument that morale is a problem in the Israeli army,” Baron said.