Military Times Survey: A Closer Look

Remember last Friday when I posted about Elaine Donnelly trying to use the Chaplain Corps as an excuse to not repeal DADT? From the article published by fake news site OneNewsNow:

Recently a Military Times survey of active duty personnel found that 10 percent of respondents said they would leave the military and an additional 14 percent said they would consider ending their careers if the homosexual ban is repealed.

Sounds pretty decisive, right? 24% of respondents say they’d at least think about leaving if lesbians and gay men were allowed to serve their country. Looking at the survey again, we see that 58% said they thought DADT should remain. That’s a big deal.

Except that doesn’t seem to be true. The problem lies with the survey and the way the Military Times gathered the data.

According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the survey was taken of just the paper’s subscribers, and done by email. As the SLDN put it:

To the Times’ credit, they pointed out these egregious flaws in their polling methodology. “The voluntary nature of the survey, the dependence on e-mail and the characteristics of Military Times readers could affect the results.”

Yet, Newsweek, ABC News’ Jake Tapper, FoxNews.com, and others decided to report on this poll as if it were some noteworthy measure of the military’s opinion on the subject. Newsweek’s story didn’t even bother to include any of the caveats to the polling methodology – unusual for a respectable magazine that strives for journalistic excellence.

Add to that list OneNewsNow. In their article on the survey’s findings, OneNewsNow made the same error as Newsweek, identifying it as “a recent survey of military personnel”.

But let’s be careful not to put the blame on the Military Times. Staff writer Brendan McGarry clearly identified the limited meaning of the survey when he reported their findings.

The responses are not representative of the opinions of the military as a whole. The survey group overall under-represents minorities, women and junior enlisted service members, and over-represents soldiers.

Understand, these things happen all the time. As the SLDN pointed out, though, it’s surprising to see so many major news outlets cite such a clearly questionable study as credible. Here’s hoping they get it right next time.

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