- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2015

Science magazine’s editor-in-chief Thursday retracted a study that purported to show that if traditional marriage supporters briefly interacted with gay marriage supporters, a substantial minority would change their minds and support gay marriage too.

The study, published in December 2014, was widely touted as evidence that Americans were ready to accept gay marriage if only they had personal interactions with gays, lesbians or their allies.

Science withdrew the report with the concurrence of co-author Donald P. Green but without the agreement of lead author Michael J. LaCour, a political science doctorate student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mr. LaCour has hired an attorney and will “tell his side of the story” Friday, the Los Angeles Times said Thursday.

Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt said in a statement the publication acted because the study’s claims about funding sources and survey incentives for participants were misrepresented or false, and the original data was not available for review.

The latter point made it “impossible to verify or alleviate concerns about statistical irregularities documented in an independent online response to the original work,” the statement said.


SEE ALSO: Conservative voters influenced by gay canvassers: study


In May, Mr. Green, a political science professor and quantitative methodologist at Columbia University, asked Science to retract the study, listing the problems with it and saying he was “deeply embarrassed by this turn of events.”

In addition, two graduate students at University of California, Berkeley, and a Yale University researcher said they were unable to replicate aspects of the study. Later, when they called the survey company that was said to have polled some 9,500 people for the LaCour/Green study, they learned that no such survey had been taken, according to a report by John Bohannon, a contributing correspondent to Science’s news department.

According to an earlier Washington Times report, the study said gay canvassers had “softened” the views of conservatives who support traditional marriage by visiting them at their homes and having a 22-minute conversation about gay marriage.

Some 9,500 voters in conservative districts in Southern California were said to have been selected for the study, which was done with the help of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Voters were invited to answer an Internet survey that had some questions on gay marriage.

The 9,500 people were then sorted into three groups — some were visited by canvassers who supported gay marriage because they were gay or knew someone who was gay and wanted to marry.

Other people were visited by someone who asked them about recycling, and the rest received no visits at all.

Upon recontact, the study said conservative voters in the recycling and no-visit groups had no change in their views on gay marriage. However, the group with LGBT-supporting canvassers saw an 8 percent increase in favor of gay marriage.

Mr. Green was quoted as saying the change was “equivalent to transforming a Midwesterner into a New Englander on the issue of gay marriage.”

Additional interviews showed that these changes of heart were persistent, and there was a “spillover” effect in that when people changed their minds on gay marriage, many housemates changed theirs too.

An official with the Los Angeles LGBT Center said the tactic could be used in the future to influence people who oppose abortion or who are wary of undocumented immigrants.

The now-retracted Dec. 12, 2014, study is called, “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality.”


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