New Poll Shows Support for Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By DALIA SUSSMAN
As the Obama administration proposes repealing the ban against the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a new New York Times/CBS News poll finds that a majority of the public support allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military.
There’s less support, however, for allowing homosexuals to serve openly.
The results highlight the importance of wording on the issue. In a test, half of the poll’s respondents were asked their opinion on permitting “gay men and lesbians” to serve, and the other half were asked about permitting “homosexuals” to serve.
The wording of the question proved to make a difference. Seven in 10 respondents said they favor allowing “gay men and lesbians” to serve in the military, including nearly 6 in 10 who said they should be allowed to serve openly. But support was somewhat lower among those who were asked about allowing “homosexuals” to serve, with 59 percent in favor, including 44 percent who support allowing them to serve openly.
Democrats in the poll seemed particularly swayed by the wording. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats said they support permitting gay men and lesbians to serve openly. Fewer Democrats however, just 43 percent, said they were in favor of allowing homosexuals to serve openly. Republicans and independents varied less between the two terms.
As the debate of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” moves forward, these findings illustrate the influence that simple language can have.
The national telephone poll was conducted with 1,084 adults Feb. 5-10 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points for each half sample. Complete poll results and article will be available this evening at www.nytimes.com.