Following up from the Friday evening, July 9, news conference held by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, I believe many questions remain about the survey, its wording, potential bias and the sample size. If anything, Morrell raised more questions for me than when I started the call. (For example, Morrell says that the survey group, Westat, "had to know from us what we were trying to get at." If the "pros" devised this survey -- and Morrell's news conference shows the working group is backing it up -- then several questions are raised about what the working group is "trying to get at.")
In addition to the questions and answers discussed in my Metro Weekly article that followed the news conference, "Pentagon Pushes Back," I wanted to post the full answers to the primary questions relating to the polling.
One of the concerns raised is that this is a far greater sample size -- 400,000 -- than is necessary to get a scientifically valid sample.
GEOFF MORRELL: This is one of those that the Secretary decided based upoon his own judgment as necessary and my sense is that he did so out of an abundance of caution, out of an abundance of appreciation for the views of the force. He wants to make sure that they feel as though their voices have been heard. I don't believe anybody thinks there will be any harm done. I've never heard of any harm being done by getting more information rather than less information.
QUESTION: What if 49% of respondents say they have a problem with taking showers with an openly gay or lesbian servicemember? How will that affect what – how the Department changes current facilities? How will you assess that information? Just getting a number of people who have concerns about this doesn’t seem to lead you in any direction.
MORRELL: I’m not a statistician, but my sense is that there are 103 questions here. Pollsters, based upon the sampling that we’ve put together, will be able to derive more from the answers than just that there is X number who have issues with the showering situation.
And, I would point you to the fact that – you don’t have it in front of you, I know – but the question about showering, for example, or living, for example, is not an either/or, but there are gradations – it a subjective – it requires a subjective answer. So, we’ll be able to glean from the answers provided more about the attitudes.
In addition, based upon all the questions that preceded it – demographics, experience and so forth – we’ll be able to get a sense of who it is that’s concerned about this. Are there younger members? Less experienced members? Is it the older force? Are they married? Are they single? Do they have families?
All of this will help our collective wisdom about the situation, and then we’ll make judgments – the working group will – and this is where the hard part comes in: Armed with all this information, what do we do when repeal takes place to prepare the force for that?
Does it require more education? Does it require more training? Does it require, as I mentioned before, adjustments to facilities? We don’t know any of that yet. That’s why we need to find out conclusively, through this scientific survey.
QUESTION: Who came up with the questions? Was it DOD? In consultation with this firm? Did the firm do this on its own? How did they come up with this?
MORRELL: It was a collaborative process. But obviously we hired professionals for a reason. We obviously contributed to this. They had to know from us what we were trying to get at. They’re very familiar with the mandate of the working group, and what they’re responsibility is. In a collaborative process, the questions were devised. They’re the pros. They know based upon our needs what the questions are they need to ask in order to help us arrive at the information we need.