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DADT Poll detractors can’t do basic math

It wasn’t long after the release of the Pentagon report on repealing DADT before those opposed to repealing DADT were out with their right-wing talking points about how the soldiers “actually” don’t want the law repealed. It even comes from a “law firm” so they must have gotten their facts right, right? Wrong.

Here’s the original article: http://www.thomasmore.org/qry/page.taf?id=119.

If you want to read along with the actual Pentagon poll results, you can find them here: http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/0610_gatesdadt/DADTReport_FINAL_20101130%28secure-hires%29.pdf

Here’s the “math” part of the article which I’ll address shortly:

The actual survey numbers of the Pentagon study show that allowing gays to openly serve in the military would be a national security disaster. According to the survey and study, titled “Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (Report):

* Nearly 60% of those in the Marine and Army combat units thought repealing the DADT law would harm their unit’s ability to fight on the battlefield.
* Up to a half-million service members may not reenlist should the ban be repealed (A disaster for our all–volunteer army that would require re-institution of the Draft).
* 91% would reject homosexual leaders.
* 71% would not share showers with homosexuals.

Senator John McCain spoke out on behalf of our combat service members. He continued his strong opposition to repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, and questioned Gates and Mullen on why they were not paying more attention to the negative impact a repeal of DADT would have on our combat troops.

Alright, let’s tackle this in order:

Combat Effectiveness

The questions dealing with military combat effectiveness are: 8c, 17c, 64, 65, 66, 71c, 83, 83, 85. The most pertinent of these is 71c and 85.

71c – 20.6% of all respondents stated combat effectiveness would be affected negatively or very negatively.

85 – 21.5% of all respondents stated combat effectiveness would be affected negatively or very negatively.

That’s not even close to 60%. Even if you include only Marine & Army combat units, the number never breaks 50%.

Now I don’t include responses of “Equally as positively as negatively” in the negative response group because I know what ‘equally’ means. At best you can lump that with, “mixed”, “no opinion” or “NA” but certainly not negative overall response.

Re-enlistment

Re-enlistment is tackled in question #81. Only 12.6% said they WILL leave sooner than planned. Another 11.1% said they’d think about leaving. 500,000 is 21.9% of the enlisted military (1,445,000 enlisted + 833,616 reserve for a total of 2,278,616 as of May 2009 (source)). You’d have to assume that fully 85% of the “think about it” group is going to leave in order to reach that half million number when we both know that half of the WILL leave group is probably full of hot air. Sure, plenty of respondents to the poll might not like the idea of repealing DADT, but they’re not going to cut their military career short because of it. Now the latter bit is my own opinion, but that doesn’t deny the obvious fact that those claiming half a million troops would suddenly leave the armed forces and “require re-institution of the Draft” are playing fast and loose with the poll results.

Homosexual Leaders

The claim that 91% would reject homosexual leaders is pure horse dung. Questions 38 through 45 cover this topic. If a respondent answered that he/she believed their unit leader was gay AND believed that other members of the unit knew this as well responded as follows:

39a – Poor or very poor ability to work together – 8.4%
39b – Poor or very poor morale – 14%
39c – Poor or very poor performance – 7.3%
41 – Of the 42.2% who believed knowing their leader was gay had an effect on unit cohesion, 37.5% (or 15.8% of all respondents) said the effect was mostly negative.
43 – Of the 39.4% who who believed knowing their leader was gay had an effect on morale, 46.1% (or 18.2% of all respondents) said the effect was mostly negative.
45 – Of the 33.9% who believed knowing their leader was gay had an effect on performance, 46.2% (or 15.7% of all respondents) said the effect was mostly negative.

Pick any of those numbers you want. NONE of them even come close to that ludicrous 91%. So where did the 91% come from? My guess is someone with very poor math/statistic skills took a very loose reading of question 45. 46.2% said they regarded performance as mostly negative. 45.2% said they regarded performance as equally negative and positive. Add those numbers together and you get 91.4%. Nevermind that the latter 45.2% don’t qualify as “negative” but as an even wash. Nevermind that question 45 is only a subset (33.9%) of question 44 (which is a subset itself that only includes personnel who believe their leader is/was gay).

The fairest anti-DADT review of this statistic could only say “30.1% of people who say their leader was gay believe he/she had a mostly negative or equally negative and positive effect on performance.” But that’s hardly cause for alarm, is it?

Gay Showers

Showers are dealt with in questions 90 and 91. Now if we assumed that “shower at a different time” (25.3%), “discuss how to conduct ourselves” (11.5%), “talk to a mentor” (1.4%), “discuss options with leader” (16.1%), AND “Something else” (6.2%) all qualified as “won’t shower with homosexuals”, you only get to 60.5%. Where’s the other 10%? Are we adding in the “don’t know” (8%) to this magical math as well?

You can’t lump all these together under “no showers with gays” without being extremely disingenuous and loose with the poll. The variety of answers indicate that service members have a variety of ways in dealing with a big change. They’re saying they’d approach a new situation with caution, not outright belligerent “hell no we won’t!” opposition like this article suggests.

Conclusion

I have never been an active member of the United States military. I’m not gay. I can’t really speak about either subject from a place of experience. That’s why I tend to defer to people who have experience in one or both arenas. That’s what the Pentagon poll is all about. It asks the troops directly how they would respond to repealing DADT. The overwhelming response from the troops and the military leadership is “We can do this.” I think we can do this as well.

To all of the old guard (read: crusty old farts – I’m looking at you John McCain!) who just can’t stand the idea of a gay man or woman serving openly, I say get over it. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most skilled fighting force on the planet. Our military has tackled and surmounted numerous difficult challenges in the past and I know they are more than capable of handling the repeal of DADT.

And if someone points you to the article on the Thomas More Law Center website as proof that DADT shouldn’t be repealed, just laugh at them and tell them to do the math.

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