As the Pentagon prepares to survey soldiers about President Obama’s decision to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a new poll of military personnel who served in the Afghanistan or Iraq wars has finds that sexual orientation is “not a burning issue that overwhelms veterans’ lives.”
The new poll, commissioned by The Vet Voice Foundation and conducted jointly by Republican and Democratic pollsters, finds that most veterans are “comfortable around gay and lesbian people, believe that being gay or lesbian has no bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties, and would find it acceptable if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military.” Fifty-eight percent of veterans said they served alongside gays or lesbians, and only 22 percent thought they had not:
— 60% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans believe that being gay or lesbian “has no bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties.” Only 29% disagree.
— 73% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say it is “personally acceptable to them if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military.” Only a quarter (25%) would find it unacceptable.
— 73% Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say “they are personally comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians.” Only a quarter (23%) is uncomfortable, and hardly anyone is very uncomfortable (only 7%).
The survey, which sampled 45% self-identified Republicans and just 20% Democrats, suggests that military personnel are more comfortable serving alongside openly gay and lesbian troops than previously thought. The poll also contradicts the findings of a widely circulated Military Times survey, which reported that 58% of respondents are opposed to efforts to repealing DADT, and undermines the claims of some conservative lawmakers who argue that lifting the ban would undermine the primary goal of the military.
“Simply put, our military is the most professional organization the world has ever known. Not only will service members abide by a repeal, but they’ll largely accept it and move on to the task at hand. For all of the hyperbolic rhetoric from those opposed to a repeal, today’s military really doesn’t see an issue here,” said Jon Soltz, Chairman of the Vet Voice Foundation. Indeed, the survey concluded that veterans under age 35 lean toward favoring allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly (41% favor to 35% oppose) while veterans over age 35 lean toward opposing by five points (31% favor, 36% oppose).
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.