November 29, 2010

Scholars: Concerns About DOD Survey’s Response Rate Unwarranted

Results of New Survey on Gays in the Military Expected This Week

Santa Barbara, Calif. – The Palm Center released a research memo today in response to Senator John McCain’s expressed concerns about the 28 percent response rate of a new Pentagon survey on gays in the military whose results will be released this week. On November 18, Senator McCain asked General Carter Ham of the 400,000 troops who received the survey, “how many, what percent responded?” General Ham responded that there were over 115,000 responses or “about 28” [percent]. The Palm Center delivered the memo today to the Senate Armed Services Committee offices of Chairman Carl Levin and ranking member Senator McCain.

The Palm Center’s memo shows that the 28 percent response rate is consistent with other military surveys as well as web-based civilian surveys. The memo cites two analyses of 60 different web-based surveys that found that the median response rate to those 60 surveys was between 27 to 29 percent. As well, response rates to military surveys often fall within the same range. In 2006, the military’s Workplace and Gender Relations Survey yielded a response rate of 30% for Active Duty Members. Finally, the memo notes that sampling strategy, not sample size, largely determines whether or not a survey’s results are biased.

The memorandum was written by Dr. Bonnie Moradi, a professor who has published peer-reviewed scholarship in the prestigious journal, Military Psychology, and who has done previous research for the Palm Center.