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G-Polling the Troops

G-Polling the Troops

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Published by Tom Carpenter
Opposition to setting precedent of polling troops and families on repeal of DADT.
Opposition to setting precedent of polling troops and families on repeal of DADT.

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Published by: Tom Carpenter on Dec 30, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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MILITARY OUTREACH COMMITTEEPolicy and Legal Team23 June 2010
Polling the Troops:Getting it Right; Understanding the Results
The Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) Terms of Referencerequire it to devise research methods that “include systematic engagement of all levels of the force and their families, analysis of current data andinformation, and review [of] the experiences of foreign militaries.” Pollingthe troops on issues related to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is a critical part of this engagement. In order to obtain useful information from these polls, it is essential to:1.
Design and conduct the polls in a manner that includes the opinions of all military members (including gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB)troops);2.
Minimize bias in the wording and selection of questions;3.
Guarantee anonymity and confidentiality so as to avoid peer pressureand ensure truthful responses from poll respondents; and4.
Understand the meaning of the results: -- i.e. how do the responsesrelate to the actual experiences of the troops compared to mereopinion or conjecture on what might happen if GLB troops were toserve openly?An historical example of the pitfalls of improper troop polling can be seen inthe British attempts in the mid-1990’s to poll their troops regarding gay andlesbian issues.
The British Troop Poll on Gay and Lesbian Issues
Until the year 2000, the leadership of the British military strongly opposedallowing gays and lesbians to serve in the British armed forces under anycircumstances. In the mid-1990’s, three service members who had beendischarged under the then-current policy filed a lawsuit which eventuallywent to the House of Lords. The plaintiff service personnel lost at everystage, including the Law Lords, and an appeal was filed with the EuropeanCourt of Human Rights in Strasburg.In preparation for that appeal, the British Ministry of Defence did extensive polling in an effort to convince the European Court of Human Rights thatservice by gays and lesbians would harm the “fighting power” of the Britisharmed forces. Among other things, the Ministry:1.
Administered a written survey to 1,711 service personnel “under examination conditions;”2.
Conducted 180 in-depth interviews;3.
Conducted 36 focus groups; and4.
Conducted a mail survey of more than 13,000 Army, Navy, andAir Force members.On this basis, the Ministry of Defence concluded in a 240-page report thatthere was “overwhelming support” for the then-current policy of excludinggays and lesbians from the armed services. A summary of that report, prepared by the European Court of Human Rights, is attached as AppendixA.
The Ministry also solicited letters from serving members of the Britishmilitary. It received 639 letters, of which 587 (92%) favored retention of the ban on gays and lesbians.Despite these findings, the European Court of Human Rights struck downBritain’s ban on military service by gay and lesbian individuals. After that1999 decision, Britain moved in the year 2000 to allow open service by gaysand lesbians. Subsequently, the Service Personnel Board in the Ministry of 
Both the printed and electronic versions of this report, as prepared by the British Ministry of Defence,are too large to attach to this memorandum. They are available on request to one of the authors of thismemorandum by writing to tom@tomfield.net.
 3Defence conducted an internal review to ascertain the effects of this change.The Board’s 2002 report concluded that overall “the change has had notangible impact on operational effectiveness, team cohesion or Service life.”A copy of the Personnel Board’s 2002 report is attached as Appendix B.In short, the elaborate polling of troops by the British Ministry of Defence inthe mid-1990s produced utterly misleading results. This conclusion isdiscussed in a May 27, 2007
 New York Times
story which stated that “Sincethe British military began allowing homosexuals to serve in the armed forcesin 2000, none of its fears -- about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullyingor an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness -- have come to passaccording to the Ministry of Defence, current and former members of theservices and academics specializing in the military.” A copy of that newsstory is attached as Appendix C.
Anonymity and Confidentiality
To ascertain the actual, candid opinions of U.S. troops, it is essential to provide a confidential, anonymous means of response to the question of gaysserving openly and honestly in the military. The reasons for this are twofold:1.
Peer-pressure must be eliminated. Since there is a well-recognizedanti-gay sentiment in parts of U.S. society, especially in maledominated organizations, peer-pressure to conform to these attitudesis strong. This is particularly true among teenagers and young adults.Only by employing a survey instrument free from the perceived needto be accepted by one’s peers (by expressing an anti-gay opinion, evenwhen this is not the individual’s true opinion on the topic) can peer- pressure be eliminated;2.
Only an anonymous, confidential survey instrument can safelymeasure gay, lesbian and bisexual troops’ opinions. The “don’t ask,don’t tell” law and military regulations implementing the law puts atrisk any service member who reveals his/her sexual orientation, evenon a survey instrument administered by the Department of Defense.
Previous Polls of U.S. Troops
Two recent, scientifically valid polls of U.S. troops have been published. In2006, Zogby International conducted a poll of “current and recent military

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