The Politics of Gays in the Military
In response to my assertion that gays in the military is “still a hot button issue in much of the country,” both Andrew Sullivan and commenter JB cite a new CNN poll showing 78 percent of the public supports changing current policy.
Andrew asserts that the belief that this remains controversial is a function of media hype and the domination of the military by “Christianist thinking” but that it “will almost certainly be a total non-event.” Perhaps.
If one looks at the poll report, one sees this result has been virtually unchanged since December 2003. But, as noted in my original post, “Referenda to ban gay marriage, for example, seem almost always to pass easily.”
At least three possible explanations obtain.
First, people are more passionate about gay marriage than gays in the military.
Second, people are lying to pollsters about their views on gays in the military, in a variation of the so-called Bradley Effect, or what pollsters term the “social desirability bias.”
Third, the issue is much more salient for the 22 percent who oppose gays in the military than the 78 percent who favor.
My guess is a combination of the three, with the third being the most powerful explainer. While I’ve come to support removing the ban in recent years, it’s not something that I’m likely to march in the streets over. Or even to change my vote on a political candidate over. It’s an intellectual position that I hold, not something about which I’m overly passionate. But Sullivan’s “Christianists” and a lot of old school soldiers are passionate over this issue, just as they were in 1993.