Press Room

Family Research Council Poll on Military Families is Biased

Sub-Heading: 
Results Distorted by Statistical Sleight of Hand
Release Date: 
November 30, 2010
Press Contact: 
Cathy Renna, 917-757-6123, cathy@rennacommunications.com
Image: 

SANTA BARBARA, CA – November 30, 2010 -- Today, the Family Research Council and the Center for Security Policy released results of a survey based on questionable methodology.  The survey, which purportedly shows that 63 percent of military family respondents oppose allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, conflates two different types of families: those that include active duty members and those that include veterans only. 

But there is a significant difference between these two types of families: those that include veterans only, but not active duty members, are much older and therefore more likely to oppose gays in the military.  Analysis of the 2009 American Community Survey by Dr. Gary J. Gates shows that among households that include a family member who is a veteran, 65% of adults are aged 50 or older. Among households that include a family member who is on active duty, only 7.6% of adults are aged 50 or older.

Virtually all surveys suggest that support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military declines with age.  So by including families with a veteran but not an active duty member, the survey biases findings toward showing less support for repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” than would have been the case if it had included just families with active duty members. 

Although FRC/CSR do not report the breakdown of active-duty versus veteran-only households that participated, they do note that 71% of the survey’s respondents are 50 years of age or older, thus indicating that a large percent of participating households were veteran-only.  According to the Pentagon’s 2008 Demographics Profile of the Military Community, only 5.5% of currently-serving, active duty enlisted service members are aged 41 or over, and only 9.5% of spouses of currently-serving, active duty enlisted service members are aged 41 or over. The FRC/CSR sample, in other words, is not reflective of the profile of a current military family.

Dr. Gates is Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.  His analysis is based on the Public Use Microdata Sample of the American Community Survey.


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The Palm Center is a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since 1998, the Center has been a leader in commissioning and disseminating research in the areas of gender, sexuality, and the military.