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Religious Tolerance logo

Gays in the U.S. Military

CNN, Washington Post, & Palm Center opinion polls
on allowing military gays & lesbians to serve openly

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See another essay for additional, individual polls

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The "Don't ask, don't tell" policy of the U.S. military was adopted by Congress in 1993. According to the policy, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals can freely serve in the military, as long as they conceal their sexual orientation. However, if they reveal it within the military, their service is routinely terminated. However, some units actively violate personal confidentiality by searching out sexual minorities.

Attempts have been made to revise the law so that gays and lesbians can be open with their sexuality. During 2010-MAY, an amendment was passed in the House of Representatives, and by a Senate committee. However, a vote of the full Senate failed during 2010-SEP.

The most useful polls are longitudinal surveys continually taken repeatedly by the same polling agency over many years. They generally ask the same question each time, thus eliminating one problem associated with different questions used during polls taken by different companies.

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CNN longitudinal polls:

CNN regularly polls a representative sample of American adults and asks them whether they are in favor of "... people who are openly gay or homosexual" serving in the armed forces."

Recent polls returned the following results:

  • 2007-MAY: 79%
  • 2008-DEC: 81%
  • 2010-MAY:: 78% 1

In our experience, these are unusually high results for any moral or ethical polling topic. We cannot recall any other question relating to LGBT persons that has this high level of support. For example:

At these levels, further analysis might reveal that most Republicans, born-again Christians, and evangelical Christians may actually support the end of DADT.

Any political party that goes against the vast majority of American voters on this topic should probably expect to lose votes in future elections.

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Washington Post longitudinal polls:

The Washington Post has conducted such polls since the DADT policy was first introduced in 1993. They asked the question: "Do you think homosexuals who DO publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military or not?" They found that support for the belief has risen markedly from that time:
bullet 1993-MAY: 44% support, 55% oppose; 2% no opinion
bullet 2001-JAN: 61% support, 35% oppose; 3% no opinion
bullet 2008-JUL: 75% support, 22% oppose; 3% no opinion 2,3
bullet 2010-FEB: 75% support, 24% oppose; 1% no opinion 4
bullet 2010-DEC: 77% support, 21% oppose; 1% no opinion 5

When asked: "... do you think homosexuals who do NOT publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military or not?" results showed even greater support:

bullet 1993-MAY: 63% support, 35% oppose; 2% no opinion 5
bullet 2001-JAN: 75% support, 22% oppose; 3% no opinion 5
bullet 2008-JUL: 78% support, 18% oppose; 5% no opinion 5
bullet 2010-FEB: 83% support, 15% oppose; 1% no opinion 4
bullet 2010-DEC: 83% support, 14% oppose; 4% no opinion 5

The latest Washington Post/ABC poll was taken on 2010-FEB-04 to 08 among a random sample of 1,004 American adults. The margin of error is ±3.2%

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), a member of the House Republican leadership, appeared to be unaware of the unusually high level of support among American adults for the repeal the Pentagon's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. On 2010-MAY-24, three days before the amendment to was passed in the House, he said:

"The American people don't want the American military to be used to advance a liberal political agenda. And House Republicans will stand on that principle."

Members of Congress are continually conflicted between either following their party's ideology, or following the will of the public. During 2010-MAY, when the House voted on an amendment to allow lesbians and gays to freely and openly serve:

  • 90% of Democrats sided with about 80% of the public by voting in favor of the DADT repeal;
  • 97% of Republicans sided with about 20% of the public by voting against the measure.

During 2010-DEC, when the House voted on an a stand-alone amendment to allow lesbians and gays to freely and openly serve:

  • 94% of Democratic representatives sided with 83% of the public and 86% of Democratic voters by voting in favor of the DADT repeal;
  • 92% of Republican rep's sided with about 17% of the public and 26% of Republican voters by voting against the measure.
  • Republican representatives seem to be seriously disconnected from both their own voters and the general population.

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"A picture is worth 1,000 words...:"

The Palm Center describes themselves as "... a research institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara, committed to sponsoring state-of-the-art scholarship to enhance the quality of public dialogue about critical and controversial issues of the day."

They permitted Gregory M. Herek to place a guest post on their website in 2009-JUN. It contains the following graph, clearly showing the trends in public opinion concerning repeal of the DADT policy.


Herek concluded:

"This is a policy area in which the public is ahead of Congress and the President. There will certainly be an outcry from some far Right groups when President Obama suspends DADT and Congress overturns it permanently. In contrast to 1993, however, there appears to be a solid base of public support for a new policy that allows lesbian and gay Americans to serve their country without having to lie about who they are."

As noted above, the blue line continues to rise and the magenta line continues to fall throughout 2010.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Law and civil rights," Polling Report, at:
  2. Kyle Dropp & Jon Cohen, "Acceptance of Gay People in Military Grows Dramatically," Washington Post, 2009-JUL-19, at:
  3. "Washington Post-ABC News Poll," 2008-JUL-10-13, Washington Post, at: (search for the question "33.")
  4. "Washington Post-ABC news poll," Washington Post, 2010-FEB-10, at:

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Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality & Bisexuality > Challenges > DADT > here

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Copyright © 2000 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAR-16
Latest update: 2010-DEC-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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