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Yale alumni uncover problems with same-sex marriage study

The controversy over a groundbreaking gay-marriage study, now in doubt, revolves around the coauthors’ states, California and New York. But there is a Yale nexus.

The two budding political scientists who discovered apparent irregularities in the study are Yale alumni: David Broockman ’11 and Joshua Kalla ’14, ’14MA. Peter Aronow ’13PhD, now on Yale’s political science faculty, helped confirm their analysis. And the study’s senior author, Columbia University’s Donald Green—who has asked the journal Science to retract the paper because of questions about its credibility—is a former Yale professor who headed the university’s Institute for Social and Policy Studies.

The study made national headlines when Science published it last December, then unraveled quickly this month.

Green and his junior collaborator, UCLA doctoral candidate Michael LaCour, reported in Science that Californians who opposed same-sex marriage often changed their minds after just a 20-minute conversation with a gay canvassser.

As graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley, Broockman (who just received his PhD) and Kalla were “impressed” with the findings and wanted to expand on the research, they write in an online report called “Irregularities in LaCour.” But their results were disappointing. Trying to figure out what they did wrong, they called a survey firm that LaCour claimed to have hired; the firm said it wasn’t familiar with LaCour’s project and didn’t have the capacity to do some of the work he attributed to it.

When they dug further, they found additional problems and, on May 15, contacted Green, who “expresse[d] concern and suggest[ed] several avenues of further investigation,” they write. Within a few days, Green confronted LaCour, was not satisfied with his response, and asked Science to retract the paper.

LaCour’s website says he “will supply a definitive response on or before May 29” and notes that, “despite what many have printed, Science has not published a retraction.”

Aronow and Broockman declined to answer questions from the Yale Alumni Magazine. Kalla did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under political science, gay marriage


  • Jeffrey Davis
    Jeffrey Davis, 5:53pm May 27 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I think it's a mistake to characterize this study as a "same-sex marriage" study. It really isn't. It was a study about the power of "in-person" discussion to change a person's mind. The discussion happened to be about same-sex marriage but that is only tangential to the story, if there is indeed a story here at all.

  • Observer Gee
    Observer Gee, 12:11pm May 28 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    @JeffreyDavis. It most certainly was a "same-sex marriage" study. The fact that it turned out to be a complete fraud aside, it remains that the contrived & phony results were intended, and were in fact used, by the gay marriage lobby to boost their argument that opponents of SSM were ignorant folks who rationally changed their minds after their allegedly ignorant, bigoted beliefs were politely challenged through thoughtful discussion. That was the very purpose of the study - buttressing support for gay marriage. And the public, the courts, and everyone else interested in the issue, were defrauded and bamboozled. This also makes one suspect the integrity of "polls" allegedly showing a vast increase in the number of Americans who support gay marriage. The only reliable poll is conducted in the privacy of the voting booth, and given the numerous states' public referenda that rejected gay marriage, I suspect those polls were fixed junk too.

  • Observer Gee
    Observer Gee, 12:14pm May 28 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    BTW, saying something is a "non-story" is the latest popular defense against highly meaningful exposes. If Jeffrey Davis doesn't think a major study fraud of this magnitude, where the initial phony results were ALL over the media and academe, is a "non-story", then he has a problem.

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