View Full Version : Survey ‘casts doubt’ on recruits’ reluctance to serve with gays

10-11-05, 06:48 AM
October 10, 2005
Survey ‘casts doubt’ on recruits’ reluctance to serve with gays
By Rick Maze
Times staff writer

Resistance to serving in the military alongside openly gay people may not be as strong as expected.

Lifting the Defense Department ban on service by openly gay service members would have no effect on the decision to enlist of 76 percent of those questioned in a new survey released Monday. The survey was commissioned by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a research institute affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said the presence of openly gay service members would deter their service, and 2 percent said they would be more likely to join the military if openly gay service members were allowed.

Aaron Belkin, the research institute’s director, said the survey “may cast some doubt” on the argument that having opening gay service members would hurt morale and deter enlistment.

The survey of 18- to 24-year-olds was designed to match the population of people entering the military, according to a statement from the center. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed described themselves as Republicans, 30 percent as independents and 17 percent as Democrats. Of those surveyed in August, 82 percent were male and 18 percent female.

The survey has a margin of error of 5.8 percent, according to a statement from the center.

While resistance to openly gay service members may not be as strong as anticipated, the White House, the Department of Defense and the congressional committees overseeing military personnel issues have shown little interest in amending the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy established during the Clinton administration. That compromise was reached after President Clinton tried to make good on a campaign promise and lift the military’s long-standing prohibition on service by gays and lesbians.

With recruiting at a low point, the fact that 21 percent of service-age youths say they would not join if there were openly gay service members might still be considered a powerful argument for maintaining the status quo.

“If 21 percent of these individuals [would be] less likely to enlist following repeal of the ban, this means that perhaps 38,000 potential recruits would be less likely to serve in the military if they knew they might be serving beside open gays,” Belkin said.

“The real question it whether people do what they say they’ll do and avoid the military because gays are allowed to serve openly,” he said. “It’s one thing to register your disapproval in a survey. It’s quite another to say, ‘Now that gays are allowed to admit who they are, I’m going to let that drive me away from the military career I wanted.’ ”

The center’s statement notes that when the Canadian and British militaries opened their ranks to gays, polls showed there was strong opposition by a majority of service-age people. However, recruiting was not a problem after gays were admitted.