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DADT Neutralized As A Political Issue

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The Center for American Progress released new polling numbers on "don't ask, don't tell" Wednesday that researchers said showed the issue has been "neutralized" as an electoral issue even in key battleground states.

The report found that 56% of voters in House of Representatives battleground districts as well as 56% in Senate battleground states support repeal.

The numbers also revealed that when voters were asked if they would more or less likely to vote for their Congress member if they voted to repeal the policy, 24% said they would be more likely and 27% said they would be less likely, with about half of respondents saying it made no difference.

"So what we are talking about is an issue in which the political effects are neutralized," said Stan Greenberg, the pollster who conducted the study for the center and was also President Bill Clinton's pollster when the "don't ask, don't tell" debate played out during his administration. "I don't get many issues on which to speak about [this] kind of historic change and mood and climate."

Greenberg noted that by large numbers, Catholics (64%), white married women (61%), and voters aged 50-64 (59%) support repeal.

"If you're sitting down as a Republican strategist, this is not where you would go to say, 'Let's tee this up,'" said Greenberg.

The poll found that 54% of Americans support repealing the policy -- a number that registers lower than in most polls on the subject because the pollsters purposely worded the question in the most conservative way possible. Instead of asking whether gays and lesbians should be able to "serve" in the military or "serve openly" in the military, pollsters pointed out that current law bans service by openly gay men and lesbians and asked voters if they think this law should be repealed.

A poll this month from The Washington Post and ABC News, for instance, found that 75% of Americans "think homosexuals who do publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military." This number was just 44% in May 1993.

A new survey by the Military Times of its subscribers also found movement among the military's careerists, who largely make up the readership of the publication, according to staff writer Brendan McGarry.

In 2004 two thirds of active of duty respondents were opposed to gays serving openly, whereas 51% are opposed today.

"Even among this group that's traditionally more conservative, we're seeing significant change in attitudes on this topic," McGarry said.

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