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Posted on Jan 14, 2009 Print this Article

Poll on Gays in the Military Perturbs Palm Center

     The Michael D. Palm Center, which promotes gay causes from its base at the University of California at Santa Barbara, issued a January 13 news release objecting to an annual survey done by the Gannett-owned Military Times.  The widely-read liberal newspaper supports the Center’s cause, but it turned the Palm Center purple by releasing the results of its annual poll seeking the opinions of active-duty people on the issue of gays in the military.  

      The Palm Center, which recently changed its name from the “Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM),” sponsors a website displaying numerous papers that promote gay activist causes, including an August 2008 report titled “Transgender People in the U.S. Military.”  

      The Palm Center also touts civilian polls producing the unremarkable finding that respondents are “comfortable” with homosexuals.  The Center nevertheless chastised me for referring to them as a gay activist group.  Given their “fully transparent” agenda, why is the Palm Center so defensive and uncomfortable with the phrase "gay activist?"  Perhaps they will explain why there is anything wrong with that. 

      This kerfuffle ensued when the 2008 Military Times Poll found for the fourth year in a row that approximately 58% of active-duty respondents were opposed to efforts to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.” The catchphrase incorrectly labels the 1993 law, Section 654, Title 10, which clearly states that homosexuals are not eligible to be in the military. 

     In 2008 the Military Times, which favors repeal of the law, asked a new survey question that drew astonishing results: “If the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is overturned and gays are allowed to serve openly, how would you respond?” The Military Times news story emphasized that 71% of respondents said they would continue to serve.  But almost 10% said “I would not re-enlist or extend my service,” and 14% said “I would consider not re-enlisting or extending my service.” Only 6% expressed “No Opinion.”  

     As I stated in a previous article for National Review Online, if the opinions of Reserve and National Guard troops are similar to those of active-duty personnel surveyed in the Military Times Poll, and if the survey’s findings approximate the number of military people who would not reenlist or would consider ending their careers if the 1993 law is repealed, combined losses in all military communities would be huge and devastating for the volunteer force.  

--  A rough estimate using Defense Department numbers for all service branches and components, totaling more than 2 million, indicates that a loss of one in ten (almost 10%) would cost the military approximately 228,600 people — more than the active-duty Marine Corps (200,000).

--  If an additional 14% decided to leave, the voluntary exodus would translate into a loss of almost 527,000 — a figure approaching the size of today’s active-duty Army (more than 545,000).

--  Estimates of losses in active-duty forces alone would range between 141,000 (10%) and 323,000 (23%).

     I also stated that these responses from active duty people are not an exact prediction.  They are significant, however, especially when major efforts are underway to increase the Army and Marine Corps.  We cannot afford to lose almost a quarter of the volunteer force, especially among careerists in grades and skills that are not quickly or easily replaceable.  

     The Palm Center keeps forgetting that no one is required to enlist or re-enlist in the volunteer force.  Military professionals follow orders and honor contracts that would not allow them to end their military careers overnight, but if they choose to leave or avoid the military in great numbers, shortages would be devastating to the volunteer force.

     Contrary to the Palm Center’s insinuations, Military Times editors did not misrepresent the methodology of their poll.  As in previous years, the Times mailed surveys to subscribers at random, but they only counted responses from almost 2,000 active-duty military.   (Due to security considerations, polling companies cannot reach active-duty people directly.)  

The editors did not claim that the poll reflects military demographics perfectly, and no one has claimed that opinions expressed in the survey guarantee future actions.  It is a poll, not a crystal ball.  Nevertheless, the Palm Center launched an intemperate attack on the Military Times that impugned the poll’s methodology and the motives of survey respondents.   

Palm Center Polemics

     The Palm Center’s policy memo, which is no more credible because it displays an academic logo, reaches backwards and sideways to quote other surveys more to their liking─none of which discredit the implications of the current Military Times Poll.  The Center also interprets the experiences of other countries that include homosexuals in the ranks, while failing to recognize that the requirements and cultures of foreign militaries are quite different than our own.  The American military is a role model for them, not the other way around.

     The policy memo author, Dr. Nathaniel Frank, further claims that Palm Center research “reports all the data we find, whether it supports or opposes current policy.”  Five examples to the contrary quickly come to mind:    

1. The Zogby Poll

     In 2006 the Palm Center sponsored a poll conducted by Zogby International that was released in December 2006.  As I wrote at that time, the Zogby news release used classic PR strategy in highlighting an innocuous question, “Are you comfortable interacting with gay people?” Of those responding, 73% said they were.  The news release did not mention the key question asked of survey respondents: “Do you agree or disagree with allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military?”  

     On that question, 26% of respondents agreed, but 37% disagreed. The poll also found that 32% of respondents were “Neutral,” and only 5% said they were “Not sure.”  (See Question 12 on page 14 of the Zogby/CSSMM Final Report, posted here.) 

     The 26% of respondents who wanted the law repealed compared unfavorably with the combined 69% of people who were opposed or neutral on repeal. This was hardly a mandate for radical change, but the Palm Center still promotes its self-sponsored Zogby Poll as if it were.

2.  The Military Study Group

     In July 2008 the Palm Center issued a Military Study Group report claiming that if the 1993 law were repealed, personnel losses would be negligible. The group composed of four retired flag and general officers cited the Center’s own 2006 Zogby poll findings in suggesting that only 2% (about 4,000) of military personnel would leave the military if professed homosexuals were allowed to join.  The group further claimed that this would be a “wash” because 4,000 gay applicants subsequently would sign up.  

     As I wrote at the time, easy research revealed that the percentage of projected losses that Zogby cited was 10%, not 2%.  The five-times-greater percentage (which happens to coincide with the 2008 Military Times Poll) translated into a potential loss of 40,000 personnel, not the 4,000 cited in the Military Study Group’s report.  

3.  Inconsistent Reports

     My 2007 article for the peer-reviewed Duke University Journal of Gender Law & Policy, titled “Constructing the Co-Ed Military” analyzed inconsistencies between several Palm Center reports.   One claimed that too many homosexuals are being discharged from the military, while another claimed that the law is meaningless because it is not being enforced.  Which of these contradictory arguments is true?  The answer is neither.  

4.  Selectively-Cited Polls

     The Palm Center undermines its claim of objectivity when it assigns more weight to civilian polls than to a survey of active-duty people who chose to respond.  Also interesting to note--Dr. Frank’s policy memo omitted mention of the 14% of respondents who said that they would consider ending their careers if the law is repealed. 

5.  Significance of the "Zero Tolerance" Policy

     Conspicuously missing from the Palm Center paper is any mention of the “zero tolerance” policy and sensitivity training that would be required to make the new policy “work.”  Absent the 1993 law, the new policy would be forced cohabitation with homosexuals, 24/7, in all branches and communities of the military, with “zero tolerance” of anyone who disagrees for any reason.  

     Dissenters would face questions about their motives, denials of promotions, and other disciplinary measures that would end their military careers. Incidents of misconduct would increase threefold, to include male/male and female/female misconduct that undermines discipline and demoralizes the troops.  These predictable consequences would harm recruiting and retention, and effectively destroy the volunteer force.

     The elitist Palm Center has a First Amendment right to publish advocacy papers.  They can even substitute personal attacks and caricatures for reasoned argument.  But scholarship such as this is no substitute for common sense.

* * * * * * *

Elaine Donnelly is President of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that specializes in military/social issues.  More information on this topic is available at www.cmrlink.org.

 

Posted on Jan 14, 2009 Print this Article