The poll, conducted by Zogby International and released Tuesday, shows that 73 percent of military members are “comfortable” with lesbians and gays, and 23 percent “know for sure” that someone in their unit is homosexual, according to results of the poll of 545 service members.
The poll data was used by advocates to show decreasing negative attitudes about gays in the military and to call once again for a change to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law enacted under President Clinton, which stipulates that gays can serve only if they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual conduct.
“Today’s poll is one more nail in the coffin of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington-based, nonprofit gay-rights group, which released the poll data.
“Those who defend the law have argued that openly gay personnel harm military readiness,” Osburn said. “This research highlights the absurdity of such a hypothesis.”
The group estimates there are about 65,000 gay or lesbian service members in the military.
While attitudes may be softening within the military, the percentage of troops who say gays should not serve in uniform still tops those who say they should be allowed to serve, according to the poll.
Only 26 percent of those polled agreed that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve in the military, with 37 percent said they should not. Thirty-two percent were neutral on that issue, while the remaining 5 percent said they were not sure.
Those more likely to agree that homosexuals should be allowed to serve were younger, with less than four years in uniform.
All the troops polled have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the SLDN.