Attitudes Toward 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy Radically Change

Gays in military backed by Republicans, conservatives and evangelicals.

ByABC News
July 16, 2008, 1:58 PM

July 19, 2008 — -- On the 15th anniversary of "don't ask, don't tell," three-quarters of Americans support allowing gays to serve in the military, whether they "tell" or not -- much broader support than existed when the compromise policy was put in place.

Military service by gays is backed by large majorities across most groups, including, perhaps surprisingly, Republicans, conservatives and evangelicals.

There's one exception -- service by gays who've gone public slips to 50 percent among military veterans.

All told, 78 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say homosexuals who don't reveal their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve. Moreover, in a rejection of the current policy, about as many, 75 percent, also favor service by homosexuals who do disclose their orientation.

The change in support for openly gay service members has been striking.

In 1993 fewer than half -- 44 percent -- believed they should be allowed to serve, rising to 62 percent in 2001 and today's 75 percent.

Support for gays who remain silent on their orientation is up from 63 percent in 1993, though about the same now as in 2001. And support for allowing gays to serve peaks among liberal Democrats, Catholics and women; it's lower -- but still commands majorities -- among evangelical Protestants, conservative Republicans, men and seniors.

Among evangelical Protestants, for instance, 62 percent support service by openly gay members of the military and 69 percent support service by gays who remain silent. Fifty-nine percent of conservative Republicans support service by gays who go public, as do 64 percent of all conservatives and all Republicans alike.

Compared with their views in 1993, conservatives, independents, whites, Republicans and men all have moved from minority to majority support for gays serving openly. The largest increase came among conservative Republicans -- up 43 points from only 16 percent support in 1993.