Military Times poll shows sharp decline in support for DADT

Timothy Kincaid

February 7th, 2010

military times pollThe Military Times is a newspaper targeted at career military personnel. For the past several years the paper has been surveying its readership on the issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Tomorrow they will be releasing the latest results and today they pre-reported the findings.

Opposition to gays serving openly in the military has declined sharply among those wearing the uniform today, the Military Times newspapers will report Monday.

An exclusive survey of some 3,000 active-duty troops shows such opposition has fallen sharply from nearly two-thirds (65 percent) in 2004 to about half (51 percent) today. The survey results appear Monday in Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times.

Those opposed to open service will likely latch onto this survey, ignore the trend, and claim that this is conclusive proof that half of America’s servicemen do not want to work with gay soldiers. But, as we noted in 2008, this survey is not even close to being representative of military personnel. In fact, only 47% of the survey participants are currently members of the military.

This latest survey, however is closer to reflecting servicepersons as a whole. The respondants in this year’s poll were on average 4 years younger than those in 2008. And the drop in support for the DADT policy between 2008 and 2010 nearly mirrors that in the drop in percentage of participants over the age of 40, about 10%.

The new survey is also more extensive than prior years. It asks a number of additional questions relating to gay service personnel. After deleting the veterans, lawmakers, family members and others, the following can be gleaned from this non-representative study:

  • 95% of participants identify as heterosexual. Around 2% identify as gay or bisexual and the rest ticked the “decline to answer” option.
  • Attitude about allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military:
  • 14% strongly favor
    15% favor
    19% neutral
    15% oppose
    36% strongly oppose

  • Of those who oppose open service, 54% believe that sexual oriention is a choice while only 34% of those who favor open service have that belief.
  • If the ban were overturned, about 38% believe that gay couples should receive the same benefits as straight couples and about 44% oppose the idea.
  • The most challenging issues for the military should the policy be overturned are believe to be reducing harassment against openly gay personnel, and reducing violence and hate crimes against gay personnel.
  • 56% know that there are gay people in their unit, 17% do not believe that there are and the rest aren’t certain.
  • Of those who found out about a gay person in their unit, 2% reported them up the chain of command.

There were also a number of subsets of if-then questions which sought to get opinions about levels of comfort or discomfort. I did not attempt to make meaning of them.

Based on this non-representative survey, it would appear that about half of career military service personnel are opposed to open service, about one third strongly opposed. However, very few are actually willing to end a fellow soldier’s career when the subject becomes personal rather than theoretical.


February 7th, 2010

Trend doesn’t matter. Half is still substantial amount of animus toward gay people.

It is discouraging to see how many think they deserve benefits for risking their lives, but their gay peers don’t. What a bunch of human garbage.

Elizabeth Casswell

February 7th, 2010

This is a great article, thank you for translating and sharing the information!

I disagree with Lucrece, I think that the population of active military is a group of people that would be pre-disposed against GLBT, and the fact that they are changing their minds is a BIG deal. Hopefully the trend continues.

Richard W. Fitch

February 7th, 2010

It would be interesting to see a more detailed breakdown that included rank, years in service and age. My guess is that even the younger CO’s have a more positive attitude toward open service than their seniors with similar rank.


February 7th, 2010

It seems like troops are just less inclined to answer or take a side. I would have hoped for a bit more movement in the favor category.

Jason D

February 7th, 2010

If I’m doing the math right, then opposition has been declining at the same rate as people becoming neutral/declining to answer.

If this trend continues, this year’s poll should show opposition at or just below 50% — not too bad. And those neutral or declining at 31%.


February 7th, 2010

These statistics are even more dramatic considering the troops are blanketed with anti-gay GOP media. I served in Iraq and all the DFAC tv’s were tuned to FoxNews and Rush is on Armed Forces radio all the time. People are almost bullied into mocking the “Democrat Party” as “fags” and “goddamn queers”. So I guarantee the true number of those who support repealing DADT is even higher – but they are afraid of the repercussions of stating their opinion.


February 8th, 2010

It is argued by the likes of the Military Readiness Center that general population polls are irrelevant and it is those of serving soldiers like this one that matter. That would be true for most professions, but in the case of the armed forces they are supposed to be under the close supervision of a democratic government, and reflect the values of the society they defend. So there should not be a problem with overriding the opinions of the soldiers to implement a basic right.


February 8th, 2010

What a breakthrough.

I think it’s incredible that people are now willing to let openly gay men and women die on their behalf in a war.

Where do I sign up?

*Australia: a nation that allows openly gay soldiers to serve*

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2010


It would be interesting to see a more detailed breakdown that included rank, years in service and age.

The full database is available. We could go further into rank and age and ethnicity and many other things. And I agree that it could be interesting to spend some time trying to get a better picture of opposition and support.

Of course, with each dividing the data becomes less telling, but if I had more time yesterday I probably would have gone a little further in.


February 8th, 2010

Great Britain, Israel, and Canada are all examples of countries that permit LGBT people to serve openly in their militaries. To date, this has presented no obstacles to the effectiveness of their military.

I see no reason why the US military would be any different in this regard.

Jason D

February 8th, 2010


Jesus loves America best of all! That’s why we can’t have no dang gays in our military!! God’ll smite us big and bad!
God don’t care about Canada, or Israel, or even Britain. God’s chosen people are Americans.

/end sarcasm.

Or at least that’s what some folks think.


February 8th, 2010

Hi Jason D

That is good to know…however…I also have it on good authority that both the CIA and the FBI permit “dang gays” to serve.

I don’t entirely understand American exceptionalism. I guess I am just a dumb foreigner. :-)

Ben in Oakland

February 8th, 2010

American exceptionalism.

Hmm. Are you saying Americans are exceptional, or that we have a lot of exceptions to our principles.


February 8th, 2010

Hi Ben,

By “American exceptionalism” I am referring to the notion that America is unique among all nations, and that the same rules do not necessarily apply to the US because of its special status. As noted by Jason above, for some Americans, this exceptionalism is rooted in a religious belief that America is chosen by god.

As an outside observer of US culture, I think your country is exceptional in many ways (good and bad).

Richard W. Fitch

February 8th, 2010

but if I had more time yesterday I probably would have gone a little further in.

So…even with your salary and performance bonuses you don’t feel obliged to give the readers here a complete picture, eh? I guess I’ll just have to follow the link and do the work myself.
[oh, and btw, thanks to all at BTB for the unselfish work you really do. ;-)]

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2010

Well just this weekend I got my W-2 from Box Turtle Big Media Conglomerate, Inc. … Oh, ooops, that was from my real job, the one that actually pays me. he he.

But in many ways the work I do at BTB is rewarding. I believe (and hope that I’m right) that what we do contributes to changing the world for the better and, at least over the past year, perhaps saving lives.

Bob Roehr

February 9th, 2010

It would be interesting to see poll numbers asking the same questions only in place of gays substitute Blacks, non-Christians, etc.

It would be eye opening to see the level of residual prejudice against all who are “not me.” And yet the military has found a way to function very effectively in the face of that prejudice. It would provide a useful context.

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