A survey has suggested that the majority of Americans want to see Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law which bans gays from serving openly in the military, repealed.

The Quinnipac University poll of 2,401 voters found that 56 per cent were in favour of repealing the ban, while 37 per cent were against.

It found that while 64 per cent of white Catholics wanted to see the ban lifted, 53 per cent of white evangelical Christians were against allowing gays to serve openly.

The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was introduced in 1994 and allows gay men and women to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret and do not engage in any homosexual acts.

President Clinton found himself embroiled in a fight with Congress over gays in the military soon after he moved into the White House in 1993.

As a Presidential candidate he had promised to allow gays to serve, but when he took office he was forced to accept the present policy in the face of military and Congressional opposition.

Many military officials, including General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton, now believe that gays should be allowed to serve openly.

The poll also looked at a range of gay rights issues, with women more likely to support gay marriage and adoption.

Jews are the religious group most likely to support gay rights, while evangelical Christians the least likely.