Pentagon Blew $4.4M on Useless 'Gaydar' Survey

Survey just tests unit cohesion, homophobia

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 12, 2010 9:11 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Pentagon is coming under fire for blowing $4.4 million on a survey that asks troops various questions about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many are calling the poll biased—“It is simply impossible to imagine a survey with such derogatory and insulting wording, assumptions, and insinuations,” wrote a group advocating DADT repeal. But polling guru Nate Silver has a more basic problem: The survey is useless, he writes on FiveThirtyEight.com. The survey never actually asks what soldiers think of DADT. Instead, it asks them to speculate on whether their unit harbors any homosexuals.

It’s inane, Silver argues, because “you’ll be picking up a tremendous number of false positives.” Units with low morale will be prone to false accusations, as rivals try to undermine each other. Other accusations will be based on stereotypes that could as easily just indicate class or background. It also doesn't ask respondents why they believe "Soldier Q" might be gay. (Silver suggests a range of possible answers, from the definitive "You've had sex with Soldier Q" to the dubious " Soldier Q has some pretty effeminate mannerisms.") The survey “might be modestly interesting as a sociological experiment,” Silver concludes, but its conclusions " about the impact of DADT on morale should be ignored."

Service members who have been dismissed because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell are seen handcuffed to the fence outside the White House during a protest against the policy, April, 2010.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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