The National Desk: Public confidence in US military drops to 26-year low
This article originally appeared on The National Desk
(TND) — Public confidence in the U.S. military is the lowest it's been in the post-9/11 world, according to a new Gallup survey.
Confidence has been sliding for the last five years, and now just 60% of the public says they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military.
Gallup’s survey data on this question goes back to the mid-1970s.
Confidence in the military hasn’t been this low since 1997, having spent most of this century about the 70% threshold.
The all-time low was 50% in 1981. The record high was 85% in 1991, spiking after the Gulf War victory.
Still, the military is faring well compared to other American institutions, according to Gallup.
Confidence has dipped across the board for institutions such as the police, churches, government and schools.
The military still ranks second highest in the confidence poll, topped only by small business, according to Gallup.
Republicans historically have been more confident in the military than Democrats or independents, and that’s still true.
But confidence among Republicans has plummeted to 68% from 91% just three years ago.
Sixty-two percent of Democrats said they have high confidence in the military, with independents showing the least confidence at 55%.
Cole Lyle, a former Marine and current advocate for veterans with his group Mission Roll Call, said there are a number of issues hurting the military’s public perception.
“I think it is a conglomeration of issues, to include the fact that the U.S. military is largely a family business at this point,” he said.
Today’s young people are losing their connection to military service through friends and family members.
The Army Recruiting Command says half of youth admit they know little to nothing about military service.
Nearly 80% of recruits have a relative who served, but only 1% of the population currently serves.
The veteran population is declining, and the military’s family business is withering away.
Lyle said the veterans suicide crisis, problems with appointments and the claims backlog at Veterans Affairs, what some see as the politicization of the military, and the “moral injury” from two recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that “ended pretty terribly” have further tarnished the military’s image in the public’s mind.
“After 20 years of conflict with multiple deployments ... we've seen the impact that has had on families,” Lyle said.
He said the low level of confidence in the military is “absolutely” tied to the recruiting challenges.
The Army, Navy and Air Force all expect to fall short of their recruiting goals this year.
While there aren’t enough young people interested in serving, even fewer of them are qualified to serve.
Only 23% of young Americans are qualified to serve, Gen. Randy George, the vice chief of staff of the Army, told lawmakers in April.
A young person might not meet physical standards, or their test scores might be too low.
“I think the military and senior leaders, particularly civilian senior leaders, have done a really bad job of messaging the positive benefits of military service,” Lyle said.
There are “tangible and intangible benefits of joining the military,” he said, noting the GI Bill and VA home loans as two examples.
“That's just two huge examples of benefits of military service that a lot of my civilian peers ... are now struggling with,” he said.