Time Magazine Relies on Non-Representative Poll Pushed by Anti-Gay Activist
February 4th, 2008
On the 29th, Time Magazine ran an article about the 15th anniversary of the military’s Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell policy. And as anti-gay activist Elaine Donnelly, president of the non-profit Center for Military Readiness, is about the only one still willing to publicly champion discrimination against gay soldiers, they used her as a source of information.
Ms. Donnelly and her Center are the face of anti-gay activism for issues surrounding the military. It has not been an easy task.
In the past 15 years, the public has been exposed to a steady list of gay persons expelled from service that seem to defy logic. Leaders, poster boys and girls (literally), linguists, medics, heroes, people who have the support and trust of their peers. And the public has increasingly come to question the necessity of excluding gay people from service.
They’ve not been alone. In recent years former generals and admirals, a former Defense Minister, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former Republican Senator have all said that it was time for this discriminatory policy to go.
Donnelly’s intractable position of total opposition to any gay person serving (openly or under DADT) has appeared to be ever more shrill in contrast to these carefully considered changes of opinion. And her public efforts to punish gay soldiers paint her as cruel and extremist.
When Sgt. Manzella came out to a national audience on 60 Minutes and suffered no immediate penalty, Donnelly was livid. She set about trying to force the military’s hand, bothering commanders at his base and going so far as to tell news sources that Manzella’s superiors should be disciplined for not firing him.
But new sources seeking supporters of an exclusionary military are limited in their options. Few voices seek to publicly support the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and some have found anti-gay moralizing to be detrimental to their career. So perhaps it is reasonable that Time turned to Donnelly for its anti-gay “balancing voice”.
However, they did not have to rely on her for a report of the opinions of service persons. A Zogby Poll released in December 2006 shows that only 37% of active service persons serving in Iraq and Afghanistan indicated that gay personnel should not be allowed to serve openly (26% favor disbanding DADT and the rest have no opinion). The same poll showed that 72% of returning soldiers were personally comfortable around gay people.
Yet Time chose to report the following:
But Americans in the military seem less friendly to the idea of junking the ban. A 2006 opinion poll by the independent Military Times newspapers showed that only 30% of those surveyed think openly gay people should serve, while 59% are opposed.
That quote is taken almost verbatim from Donnelly’s website:
In the most recent poll announced by the Military Times newspapers, in answer to the question “Do you think openly homosexual people should be allowed to serve in the military?” 30% of the active duty military subscriber respondents said Yes, but 59% said No, 10% having No Opinion. The same percentage, 59% in opposition, was reported by the Military Times survey in 2006 (Army Times, Jan. 8, 2007).
So do service persons oppose gay participation by 39% as Zogby reports, or 59% as Donnelly claims? Well, in the same article on her website, Donnelly dismisses and criticizes the Zogby poll as being nonrepresentative:
Apparent absence of random access undermines the credibility of the poll, even though the news release makes the inflated claim, “The panel used for this survey is composed of over 1 million members and correlates closely with the U.S. population on all key profiles.”
Much of the anti-gay argument of those supporting DADT is that the young recruit would not want to be in the proximity of gay soldiers. Those in favor of allowing open service argue that young people are more familiar and comfortable with gay people than those of, say, Donnelly’s age.
Donnelly is quite critical of anyone making this argument. However, she must not have taken a good look at the poll on which she is relying. Nor did Time notice any inconsistency.
Had they looked closer, they would have noted that the participants in the Military Times poll were far from representative of military service persons.
Using the 2000 statistics of the Heath Status of the United States Army (and assuming that there is not a strong variance between services) we can compare the Military Times poll to the Army’s report of those who actually serve.
- Army average age – 28; MT poll participant average age – 37
- 44% of service members between 17 and 24; 7% of MT poll participants fell in this category
- 8% of army personnel are 40 or older; 41% of MT poll participants are 40 or older
- 51% of army personnel are married; 82% of MT poll participants are married
As the Military Times put it, “The annual poll has come to be viewed by some as a barometer of the professional career military.”
In other words, this is NOT a poll of active service persons who are on the front lines eating, sleeping, and showering with their mates. In fact, only 2% of those polled lived in barracks. Unlike the Zogby poll, the Military Times poll is of those who have made the military their career.
When viewed in conjunction with the Zogby poll that Donnelly found so faulty, the logical conclusion is that those military persons who sit on their butts in an office have the luxury of entertaining their anti-gay biases while those are in the line of fire may care more about the abilities of their fellow soldier than they do about the gender of his spouse.