Poll Shows Greater Acceptance of Gays in the Military

Despite the Republican success in using gay-bashing for electoral advantage four years ago, the overall trend has been towards greater tolerance. One example of this can be on attitudes towards gays in the military, as reported in a Washington Post-ABC News poll:

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Shortly after he took office in 1993, Clinton faced strong resistance to his campaign pledge to lift the military’s ban on allowing gay people to enlist. At that time, 67 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives opposed the idea. A majority of independents, 56 percent, and 45 percent of Democrats also opposed changing the policy.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

While Americans, including a majority of both Republicans and conservatives, have become more liberal on this issue, Steve Benen notes that the Republican leadership, including John McCain, lags behind. He also reminds us that McCain has referred to gay soldiers as an “intolerable risk.”  The move by the Republican leadership to the far right, often even further than most Republican voters, is one reason for the weak position of the party today. The overall course of history since the enlightenment has been towards greater acceptance of liberal values, and while the far right has occasional victories they cannot reverse this course.