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Guess How the Public Feels About Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Guess How the Public Feels About Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Guess How the Public Feels About Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

by Andrew Price
December 3, 2010


In light of yesterday's Pentagon report that said most service members support repealing "don't ask, don't tell," Nate Silver looked into the public opinion polls to see how America at large feels.

The red line above represents the percentage of people who think gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly. The blue line represents the percentage of people (from the same group) who think gays and lesbians who don't disclose their orientation should be able to serve. The difference between the red and the blue line represents the people who disagree with the blue statement but agree with the red one. 

What Silver finds most interesting about this plot is the narrowing gap between the two.

This gap is the percentage of Americans who believe gay men and lesbians should only be allowed to serve if they don’t reveal their sexual orientation. In other words, it’s the percentage of Americans who support the status quo.

That is pretty interesting. The number of people who really endorse "don't ask, don't tell" as a perfect policy is tiny. But then again, the number of people who see it as an imperfect but workable compromise might be much, much higher.

At any rate, what I find most interesting here is just how quickly public opinion moved on this issue. In 1993, only 45 percent of Americans thought gays should be able to serve openly. Now that number is around 75 percent. That doesn't reflect the new values of a younger generation—that's people changing their minds about what's right on the fly and it's pretty encouraging.

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