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Posted on Nov 12, 2009 Print this Article

RAND Lends Brand to Palm Center Polemic

On November 10 the Boston Globe reported that “RAND and the University of Florida” had produced new research that would help the Obama Administration to repeal the 1993 law regarding gays in the military, mislabeled (as always) “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  The Globe hailed the report as something new and credible.  In fact, it is neither. 

As stated in a November 9 RAND news release, the 23-page report was the result of a “contract” between the Michael D. Palm Center, a University of California-based activist group, and the two authors, Laura Miller, Ph.D., of RAND and Bonnie Moradi, Ph.D., of the University of Florida.  A corporate spokeswoman has confirmed that the Miller/Moradi/Palm paper, pretentiously titled Attitudes of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Toward Gay and Lesbian Service Memberswas not a RAND study.  

The paper in question actually is a substandard re-interpretation of the thoroughly-spun Zogby Poll sponsored by the Michael D. Palm Center in 2006.  The "new" paper, which was commissioned by the Palm Center, amounts to a re-reading of four year-old tea leaves that also were paid for by the Palm Center.  Perhaps RAND trusted that no one would inspect the document too closely, or notice that it provides over-interpreted conclusions based on a small survey sample gathered by questionable, non-random methodology that was paid for by a gay activist group.  

CMR analyzed an earlier version of the report that the Palm Center had posted on their own  website months ago, and found only a few minor changes and page differences in the paper just announced and published by the Armed Forces & Society Journal. The paper is dense with academic jargon and social science formulas, but it does not meet objective standards that research firms usually to non-social issues.

1.  The published paper focuses almost entirely on the four year-old Zogby Poll, which used a methodology described as follows:  “Zogby International conducted interviews of 545 US Military Personnel online from a purchased list of US Military personnel.” (sic) 

  • This 545-person sample, and the report describing it, are not as credible as they sound.  Due to security requirements heightened since 9/11, the U.S. military does not sell or provide access to personnel lists to civilian pollsters or anyone else.  The Miller/Moradi/Palm report, to its credit, included this honest comment: Initial attempts to secure a list of military personnel from the Department of Defense in order to draw a random sample for this survey were unsuccessful.” 
  • The Zogby/Palm Poll further weakened its own credibility by claiming, “The panel used for this survey is composed of over 1 million members and correlates closely with the U.S. population on all key profiles.”  An objective reviewer would ask, if a “million-man” polling sample existed, why did it locate only 545 respondents?  
  • As noted by Miller and Moradi, the Zogby/Palm Poll’s description of methodology referred to a “double opt-in format through an invitation only method.”   The obfuscation was no substitute for the plain and conspicuously-missing word random. Respondents, apparently, self-selected themselves to answer a survey on gays in the military, which might have led to a disproportionately large sample of gay or liberal participants.  Even the Miller/Moradi/Palm report acknowledged on page 6 that the Zogby/Palm Poll and other studies shared “the limitation of being unable to distinguish responses by sexual orientation, as asking for sexual orientation disclosure on a survey would pose a substantial risk to participants under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ “   

2.  The news release announcing the Miller/Moradi/Palm paper noted that further research is needed to investigate the general pattern that high-grade enlisted personnel and officers were more supportive of the ban than low- and mid-grade enlisted personnel, in order to find out why “Those who reported prior training on the prevention of anti-gay harassment also were more favorable of the ban than those who had not had the training.”  

  • The paper offered speculation on reasons for this resistance on page 6: “One possibility worth exploring is whether the content of antigay harassment training teaches or reinforces the premise of DADT, that is, the presumption that open gay and lesbian service members are harmful to the military.”
  • Objectivity and logic would suggest a different interpretation: Higher-ranking people understand the problems associated with gays in the military better than junior personnel, and heterosexuals who are annoyed by pro-gay “diversity” training don’t want to put up with more of it.

3.  In 2007 CMR published an analysis of the 2006 Zogby Poll that remains valid today.  It noted that the key question asked by Zogby was omitted in the news release that made national news at the time: “Do you agree or disagree with allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military?”

  • On that question, 26% of those surveyed “Agreed,” but 37% “Disagreed.” The Zogby Poll also found that 32% of respondents were “Neutral” and only 5% were “Not sure.”  
  • If this poll were considered representative of military personnel, the 26% of respondents who wanted the law repealed were far fewer than the combined 69% of people who were opposed to or neutral on repeal. This minority opinion was hardly a mandate for radical change, but the poll is still being trumpeted as if it were.  

4.   To its credit, the Miller/Moradi/Palm paper mentions this key question on page 6.  The report  must be faulted, however, for omitting comment on four annual Military Times Polls, all of which indicated that 58% percent of the active-duty subscriber/respondents supported current law.  

  • A new “Table 1” lists the numeric findings of one of the Military Times Polls, done in 2007, but not the one done in 2008, which was even more emphatic than the three previous surveys.  In 2008 10% percent of respondents indicated that they would not re-enlist if the law (called DADT) were repealed, and an additional 14% said that they would consider ending their careers.
  • Findings such as this were simply omitted, perhaps because they did not fit the “support for DADT is dropping” theme and template of the Miller/Moradi/Palm report.

            It is not clear why the RAND Corporation would lend its resources to this project, which unquestioning media presented and reported as if it had the full weight and credibility of an actual RAND report.   

Whether intended or not, the public relations assistance appears to be an in-kind contribution to the Palm Center, calling into question the objectivity of anything that RAND produces on this subject.  (In 2007 RAND produced a contrived and inaccurate Rubber Stamp Report condoning Army policies regarding women in combat that violate policy and law.)  

The Palm Center has a pretty slick PR operation going for them, but they have failed to make a convincing case for repealing the 1993 Eligibility Law.  

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Posted on Nov 12, 2009 Print this Article