Editorial note: This story was updated at 6 p.m. ET Dec. 9.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Lawmakers seeking to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy have a large majority of Americans behind them.
If they had an opportunity to vote on it, 67% of Americans say they would vote for a law that would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military.
The finding, from a Gallup poll conducted Dec. 3-6, 2010, is consistent with previous Gallup surveys on the issue. More than 60% of Americans since 2005 have said they favor allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the U.S. military, including majorities of the most conservative segments of the population.
The current findings are based on a question in which Americans are asked whether they would vote for or against several proposals lawmakers are currently considering. It was asked after the release of a major Pentagon study on troops' views about the current ban on openly gay service members and as the lame-duck Congress moved toward legislative action. Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified to Congress on Dec. 2, saying that troops' concerns "do not present an insurmountable barrier" to ending the policy.
The U.S. Senate Thursday, by a 57-40 vote, failed to advance a defense authorization bill considered the best chance for repeal. Still according to The Washington Post, senators who support repeal say they may introduce a separate bill on the matter, while gay-rights activists plan to ask President Obama to use his executive powers to keep U.S. courts and military officials from enforcing the current policy.
Rank-and-file Republicans currently are evenly divided on the issue, with the most opposition coming from conservative Republicans. Large majorities of Democrats, independents, and moderate and liberal Republicans are in favor.
Republicans -- and conservative Republicans -- are the only key demographic groups that do not express majority support for legislation allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.
See the findings for more demographic groups on page 2.
Support for DADT Repeal on Par With That for Tax Cuts, Unemployment Benefits
Americans express almost exactly the same level of support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military as they do for extending the Bush tax cuts for all Americans for two years and extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. It would also appear to be an easier sell to the American people than passing the DREAM Act, ratifying the START treaty, postponing Medicare cuts, or banning earmarks.
Americans demonstrate steady and widespread support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military -- in previous Gallup surveys and in a new question gauging support for a number of legislative proposals currently under consideration. With Defense Secretary Gates and a Pentagon report on the issue both supportive of repeal, arguments for maintaining the policy seem to be increasingly sparse.
Still, despite their support, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ranks low on Americans' priority list for the lame-duck Congress, suggesting there will likely be little consequence politically for not acting now.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 3-6, 2010, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,003 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.