Half of the military's youngest officers oppose gays serving in the military, with conservative male military academy cadets especially hostile to President Obama's year-old repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, according to a new survey from West Point scholars.
"The findings show being a cadet is associated with stronger agreement for barring homosexuals from military service," said the study published by the authoritative journal Armed Forces & Society and made available to Washington Whispers.
Since 1993, gays had been allowed to serve in the U.S. military but were barred from expressing their sexuality openly. This year those restrictions were repealed.
The study, part of an ongoing survey of college students at U.S. military academies, civilian schools and ROTC cadets, found a huge gap in attitudes toward gays and lesbians serving in the military. College students not heading into the military support Obama's actions, with just 13 percent opposed to gays serving in the military. Some 41 percent of ROTC students oppose gays serving and 53 percent of those at military academies opposes gay service.
The survey did not distinguish between gays serving in the military openly or under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell restrictions.
Since the bulk of military officers come from military academies and ROTC, their opposition to gays serving is significant, though the study authors found that attitudes change over time. For example, male and female cadets interviewed back in 2002 were more opposed than those surveyed in 2007 by a margin of 9 percent: 59 percent to 50 percent.
During the debate over repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, service chiefs fought the president, worried that it could undermine morale. But top Pentagon leaders, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the defense secretary, backed the president's move.
The controversy flashed back into public view last week when news photographers captured two female sailors smooching after the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship landed in Virginia Beach.
Males prove to be the biggest foes of gays serving in the military—and politically conservative male cadets are especially hostile.
According to the survey, 70 percent of those described as "male Republican cadets" support barring homosexuals from serving in the military. Some 44 percent of "female Republican cadets" also oppose gays in the military. By comparison, just 4.5 percent of those described as "female Democrat civilians" oppose gay service.