If You’re Gay, You’re O.K. . . .

February 13, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

. . . .but if you’re homosexual, it’s more conjectural.*

When a recent New York Times / CBS poll asked about gays in the military, the survey split the sample and asked the question two ways. Half the sample were asked about “homosexuals,” half were asked about “gays and lesbians.” The good news is that whatever the phrasing, only a minority opposed allowing gays to serve. But respondents were far more tolerant of “gays and lesbians” than they were of “homosexuals.”

(For a larger view, click on the chart.)

More simply, people favored “gays/lesbians” 70 to 19; “homosexuals” by 54 to 29.

The results on Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell are less clear. People who were in favor were further asked if their opinion extended even to those who were out. Of the 70% who favored “gays and lesbians,” 58% favored even the uncloseted. Among the 54% who favored “homosexuals,” only 44%.

On the one hand, that means the openly “homosexual” are seen less favorably than are the openly “gay.” On the other, when the “openly announce” condition was added, of the 70 who favored allowing “gays/lesbians” in the military, 22 changed their minds. Among those who favored allowing “homosexuals,” the attrition was only 10 of 54. However, with an N of only 500 in each group, these results may not be so reliable.

* The allusion here is to the old song, “If you’re white, you’re all right . . .” the same one that Rev. Lowery referenced in his benediction at the end of the inauguration thirteen months ago (here, beginning at about 4:30 – highly recommended). Or listen to the original song by Big Bill Broonzy.

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