Gays and Lesbians Poll Better than Homosexuals
“Support for Gays in the Military Depends on the Question,” Kevin Hechtkopf informs us in the No Duh Headline of the Week. But the specifics are interesting: It seems people are much more sympathetic to “gays and lesbians” than to “homosexuals.”
A new CBS News/ New York Times poll finds that the wording of the question is key when it comes to determining whether Americans support allowing gays to serve in the military.
In the poll, 59 percent say they now support allowing “homosexuals” to serve in the U.S. military, including 34 percent who say they strongly favor that. Ten percent say they somewhat oppose it and 19 percent say they strongly oppose it. But the numbers differ when the question is changed to whether Americans support “gay men and lesbians” serving in the military. When the question is asked that way, 70 percent of Americans say they support gay men and lesbians serving in the military, including 19 percent who say they somewhat favor it. Seven percent somewhat oppose it, and 12 percent strongly oppose it.
When it comes to whether Americans support allowing gays to serve openly, there is also a difference based on the term used. When referred to as “homosexuals,” 44 percent favor allowing them to serve openly. When referred to as “gay men and lesbians,” the percentage rises to 58 percent.
No matter the term used, support for gays to serve in the military has risen since 1993, when the debate arose early in Bill Clinton’s presidency. In 1993, 42 percent said they favored allowing homosexuals to serve, with 21 percent saying they strongly favored it; that compared to 42 percent who opposed allowing them to serve (29 percent strongly). In 1993, 37 percent said they supported allowing homosexuals to serve openly and 56 percent opposed. However, support is down from one year ago, when 67 percent said they supported allowing homosexuals to serve (46 percent strongly).
I’m not sure I can explain the vast differences in the poll results, other than perhaps “gays and lesbians” is more humanizing than the more clinical “homosexuals.” I’m also unsure why we’d see a big drop in support for gays in the military from last year; perhaps it’s a function of President Obama’s finally pressing the issue and the fact that his approval numbers have plummeted (although they’re still remarkably high, considering the state of the economy and the political climate).