A Poll of Their Own: Family Research Council Takes on the Pentagon

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC), was on the attack again today. In a live event broadcast from the FRC political arm’s website, Perkins announced that a new FRC poll had found that almost 63% of “active duty and retired military families oppose overturning the policy prohibiting open homosexuality in the military.” The poll, commissioned by the FRC and the neoconservative Center for Security Policy, seemed to fly directly in the face of a brand new Pentagon poll, which concluded that 70% of surveyed service members believe that ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy would be positive, have mixed results or be of no consequence. (Thirty percent of the 115,000 people polled by the Pentagon said the repeal would have some negative effects.)

The FRC has a record of trumpeting a series of allegedly negative aspects of homosexuality, including the false claims that gay men have high rates of pedophilia and that “homosexual activists” want to abolish all age-of-consent laws. As a result, the Southern Poverty Law Center added the group to its list of hate groups after its lengthy study of the hard core of the anti-gay right was released last week.

What accounted for the apparently gigantic gap between the two studies? It was hard to tell, largely because the FRC released very few details of the poll carried out by CC Advertising, a firm with a client list that includes conservative organizations like the Abstinence Clearinghouse. But by including “retired military families,” the poll obviously skewed its results because older generations of all Americans tend to have far less tolerant attitudes toward gays than younger Americans. The FRC poll, of course, also polled “military families,” not necessarily those serving.

In his remarks, Perkins suggested that the Pentagon’s 70% finding was “simply without basis.” He suggested that service members are under military discipline and therefore might not say anything that would contradict the Obama Administration. He questioned whether the poll might have had a “predetermined outcome.” And he suggested that very few gays and lesbians left the armed forces because they could not serve openly; instead, he said, large numbers might be purposely revealing their homosexuality to officers simply “to avoid another potential tour of duty.”

He offered no evidence to back any of these suggestions.

Perkins’ webcast followed a clarification that was run Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” where Perkins had cited the “American College of Pediatricians” to support his allegation, in a Monday appearance on the show, that “homosexuality poses a danger to children.” Said Matthews: “We need to note right now that the group that Perkins sourced, the American College of Pediatricians, is not the same group as the American Academy of Pediatrics, but a group of about 100 conservative-minded doctors that formed in 2002 in response to the academy’s support of gay parental rights. We like to straighten these things out.”