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NEW POLL: Strong Majority of American Voters Support Repeal of 'Don't Ask'
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NEW POLL: Strong Majority of American Voters Support Repeal of 'Don't Ask'

On a press call this morning, pollster Stan Greenberg said "I don't get many issues on which to speak about [this] kind of historic change..."

Today the Center for American Progress released a new poll showing a majority of American voters support the repeal of" Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the U.S.military's policy that bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the armed forces. These numbers demonstrate a massive change in public opinion onthis issue since 1994, when polls showed that majorities of Americans opposed gay men and lesbians serving in the military.

On a press call with reporters this morning, pollster StanGreenberg, who was President Bill Clinton's chief pollster when "Don't Ask,Don't Tell" was implemented, and has previously stated that the issue of gays serving openly in the military was a major factor in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, said the following: "Frankly,I don't know of another issue&that you would have thought it was polarizing given its history but I think people have moved to a different place on tolerance, they've moved to a different place on the role of the military...and want to see this policy reversed." "The intensity of this is on the side of - let them serve.'" And "The intensity favors repeal versus not."

"Idon't get many issues on which to speak about [this] kind of historic changeand mood and climate."

Brendan McGarry, a staff writer at the Military Times, said the following:

"Even among [the military], which is traditionally more conservative, we're seeing significant changes in attitudes on this topic." And "The trend is that opposition is down among these folks."

Ruy Texiera,a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, said the following:

"I think it's kind of an open and shut case in the court of public opinion based on our and other data."

Here are some of the poll's key findings:

A solid majority of likely voters support repeal: 54 percent of those surveyed support repealing the current ban on open service, and just 35 percent oppose it. The language in our question was intentionally the most conservative language possible in order to avoid any suggestion of bias, and a recent Quinnipiac poll also used this conservative language and generated statistically identical results to the CAP poll.

Voters value skills over sexual orientation: Sixty percent believe that with the United States in the middle of two wars, the military needs every talented woman and man it can get regardless of a person's sexual orientation.

DADT repeal is not a politically polarizing issue: Among likely voters, 68 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and 41 percent of Republicans support repeal. What's more, 56 percent of voters in House battleground districts and 56 percent in Senate battleground states support repeal.

Surprising groups of people support repeal: 64 percent of Catholics, 61 percent of white married women, and 59 percent of whites aged 50-64 support repeal.

Voters do not want to defer to the military on DADT: A clear majority - 63 percent - would not change their opinion on DADT repeal even if the U.S. military was opposed to open service by gays and lesbians. This is despite the fact that the poll found the public to hold the U.S. military in very high regard, with a 90 percent favorability rating.

Voters are becoming more accepting of gays and lesbians overall: Nearly 30 percent said that they have become more accepting of gays and lesbians in the past 5 to 10 years. Only 11 percent became less accepting.

It should also be noted that the military is moving toward support of open service: The Military Times annually polls its readers on their feelings toward gay men and lesbians serving in the military and released its latest survey findings this month. Thirty percent of respondents currently on active duty support open service by gays and lesbians, while 51 percent oppose,compared to in 2003 when 24 percent supported open service and 63 percent opposed. What's more, nearly 60 percent of active duty respondents said that they think gay men and lesbians are already serving in their units.

All of this data points to one conclusion: Americans solidly support repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on military service by openly gay men and lesbians. Opinions have changed dramatically in favor of open service since 1994 when the ban was first put into place, even within the military itself. Nearly 14,000 otherwise qualified men and women have been discharged from the military under DADT, and many thousands more have chosen to not reenlist because of the policy. Enforcingand implementing the policy has cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The American public rightly believes that now - with the country engaged in two wars - is the time to repeal DADT and make military service contingent on skills and abilities, and not factors immaterial to the job at hand.

###

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

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