In the past couple of weeks, we've seen two unscientific, disreputable polls released on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
The first, conducted by Military Times, showed 58 percent of respondents thought the law - banning openly gay men and women from serving in the military - should be kept in place. But this number represented a survey of subscribers to the newspaper, and was conducted over e-mail.
To the Times' credit, they pointed out these egregious flaws in their polling methodology. "The voluntary nature of the survey, the dependence on e-mail and the characteristics of Military Times readers could affect the results."
Yet, Newsweek, ABC News' Jake Tapper, FoxNews.com, and others decided to report on this poll as if it were some noteworthy measure of the military's opinion on the subject. Newsweek's story didn't even bother to include any of the caveats to the polling methodology - unusual for a respectable magazine that strives for journalistic excellence.
We also just today saw Military.com, the most popular military news and information site, conduct an online poll on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." As you may know, random online polls are self-selected, not random, not weighted, and totally compromised. It's fun (we guess) to talk about, but that's it. So why do we mention it here? Because information, good and bad, in this day and age spreads like wildfire through the blogosphere and, at times, the respectable news media. Presumably, more people than not would think this kind of poll actually says something definitive (or even semi-definitive) about overturning "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." It doesn't. (Even if we might like the result, the poll is unusable.)
Like the country at large when it comes to gay civil rights issues, opinions in the military are changing. A 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey reported that 50 percent of junior enlisted personnel believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly. The poll notes this number represents a three-fold increase in support for open service among junior enlisted personnel, up from just 16 percent in 1992.
In case you were wondering, this poll was conducted scientifically by a highly respected, non-partisan polling organization.
01-08-09 By SLDN Staff |