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Gay-canvasser study formally retracted

Same-sex marriage supporter Vin Testa of Washington, D.C., holds a rainbow pride flag near the Supreme Court on April 28  in Washington  as the court prepared to hear arguments concerning whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The journal Science has formally retracted a study published in December that had found that gay canvassers could change voters’ minds about same-sex marriage by striking up short, personal conversations.

In a retraction letter published online Thursday, editor-in-chief Marcia McNutt said the paper’s main author, Michael J. LaCour, admitted through an attorney that he had not paid participants as he had originally claimed, and did not receive funding from the organizations he had named as sponsors. She also noted that independent researchers had found statistical irregularities.

“LaCour has not produced the original survey data from which someone else could independently confirm the validity of the reported findings,” she wrote.

LaCour did not consent to the retraction, according to McNutt. On his Web site, LaCour posted a statement that he will issue a response by Friday. He did not immediately respond to an e-mail.

It was expected that Science would take action after LaCour’s co-author, Columbia University political scientist Donald P. Green, issued a letter disavowing the results of the study and asking for it to be retracted. Green’s request was first reported by the Web site Retraction Watch but spawned headlines around the country, as the initial paper had been widely reported, including by The Washington Post.

Green’s letter, and other evidence that parts of the study were suspect, shook the political science field and dealt a blow to efforts to show that door-to-door campaigns could change people’s minds on deeply held beliefs. The research had led to similar efforts around transgender rights and abortion.

Click here for the text of the full retraction statement from Science.

Click here for more on Retraction Watch.