Military Times Headlines Mislead On Obama Reaction

The Military Times moved head-on into yellow journalism with this sensational headline:

2008 Military Times Poll: Troops Wary About Obama

“Troops cite inexperience, Iraq timetable.”

According to the Times, 6 out of 10 military members are concerned about their soon-to-be Commander in Chief. Not only are their survey samples small enough to be irrelevant, they aren’t even true for their officer-heavy, diversity-light subscribers.

The bottom of the page contains links to how they conducted their survey. I downloaded their unwieldy data and looked for their main points. The more-than-biased results came from this method: “About 36,000 subscribers” received email invitations to participate. “5,181 completed the survey. Except where noted, data were filtered to include 1,947 responses from active-duty subscribers.”

Out of these active-duty members, 485 were “pessimistic” about Obama’s presidency; 642 of them disapproved of the job Bush has done overall.

157 more people disapproved of Bush than were pessimistic about Obama. This isn’t a large number in a normal survey. In this sample, however, it is just over 8% of the entire group.

In May of 2008, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an open letter to military members, reported in the New York Times, warning them to stay out of politics. Active-duty military members are not allowed to participate in partisan politics.This doesn’t mean they can’t have political views, but that they are not supposed to air them publicly.

“The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia.”

The article makes a passing reference to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military. The policy created a furor when passed by President Clinton, now there is an uproar–possibly manufactured by conservatives–about the possibility of repealing the policy.

According to the article, the majority of respondents were against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”, but the data tells a different story. Out of 1,842 people, 177 answered that they would not reenlist if the policy were repealed. The choices were: “would not reenlist”, “would consider not reenlisting”, ‘no opinion”, and “no response, would continue to serve”. There was no option allowing a positive response to repealing the policy.

I have been a military wife for over 20 years, and I’ve seen a huge change in the attitudes of what used to be a very conservative group. I’m furious about this article. The Military Times and Brendan McGarry do not speak for me, or for the majority of military members. Nor, as the articles versus the data shows, do they speak for their subscribers.