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Utah Boy Scout council says 83 percent of parents, leaders oppose lifting gay ban

Monday, March 25, 2013
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SALT LAKE CITY — A survey finds that that 83 percent of Boy Scout leaders, parents and representatives from troops in the greater Salt Lake City area oppose lifting a ban on openly gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders.

The survey, conducted by the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America, was sent out via email ahead of an upcoming nationwide vote of all Boy Scout councils, and is separate from a recently announced nationwide survey being conducted by BSA’s national leadership.

The survey also found that of 4,600 people who have responded so far, 70 percent say they will be less involved or will quit Scouting if the ban ends. Fourteen percent say they would like to see a change in the policy.

But with a response rate of 11 percent — and a design that does not allow respondents to be anonymous — the survey may not represent the views of the 41,000 leaders and parents queried by the council, a University of Utah professor told the Salt Lake Tribune.

“Methodologically speaking, (11 percent) is an extremely low response rate,” said Andrew Jorgenson, a statistics professor at the University of Utah. “It can certainly increase the likelihood that the results are not representative of the broader population they’re trying to survey.”

According to Rick Barnes, the council’s Scouting executive, respondents are being identified by their email address, “to make sure that only those we sent surveys to can reply.”

That strategy “can certainly bias what the sample will look like,” Jorgenson said, “because clearly that could influence whether or not people will be willing to respond in the first place. That is research methods 101.”

Larry Love of Salt Lake City, a Scoutmaster and member of the LDS Church, said he was surprised by the 83 percent support for the ban. In his response to the survey, he supported lifting it, but said he will stay active in Scouting if the ban remains.

While Scouting representatives in other parts of the country might support openly gay leaders and members, Barnes said, membership and backers in Utah clearly want no change.

Barnes noted that “roughly 98 percent” of the Great Salt Lake Council’s troops are sponsored by the Mormon Church.

The Boy Scouts recently announced it was considering an end to its policy prohibiting gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders. The Board is set to vote in May on the membership policy change.

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