Broad Support for Military Service by Gays

Dec 15, 2010 12:01am

Seventy-seven percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military, the most in polling back 17 years, capping a dramatic long-term shift in public attitudes on the issue.

That result in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll comes as the House prepares to vote on legislation that would repeal the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a measure previously approved in the House as part of a larger bill, but stalled in the Senate. 

When first asked in an ABC/Post poll in 1993, 63 percent of Americans favored allowing service by homosexuals who don’t reveal their sexual orientation – the “don’t tell” policy; far fewer, 44 percent, supported service by gays who do reveal their sexual orientation.

Both views have changed, the latter most sharply. Today 83 percent favor allowing service by gays who don’t tell, up 20 points – and, as noted, almost as many also favor service by gays and lesbians who do disclose their sexual orientation, up 33 points from its 1993 level. 

These numbers have been largely stable the last few years. The former, 83 percent, matches its high last February. And the 77 percent figure is a scant 2 points above its previous high in ABC/Post polls in 2008 and last winter alike.

Support for service by homosexuals even if they do disclose their sexuality is broadly based, albeit with differences among groups – 81 percent among women, 72 percent among men; 86 percent among Democrats, 74 percent among Republicans and independents alike; 87 and 85 percent, respectively, among liberals and moderates, 65 percent among conservatives. It’s lowest, but still 55 percent, among the 14 percent of Americans who describe themselves as “very” conservative.

While changes have been very large across the board, the biggest since 1993 are among Republicans, conservatives and Southerners, all with 42-point increases in support for allowing gays to serve openly; and men, up 37 points. See the trend document here for a table.

One note: Unlike previous ABC/Post polls on the subject, this one tested language by using the term “homosexual” in half the interviews, “gay and lesbian” in the other half. It made no meaningful difference in the results.

Click here for the full results.

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