Half of Americans believe that all U.S. service members are heroes regardless of their roles or experience -- a view at odds with how some Europeans perceive their militaries, according to a new poll.
Fifty percent of Americans surveyed in a YouGov poll released Wednesday said that everyone in the military is a hero, while 33 percent said it depended on their service. A parallel poll in Germany found that just 15 percent of those surveyed think all troops are heroes, and 30 percent said that no military members deserved that accolade.
The response in Great Britain fell between those in the United States and Germany. There, 32 percent of those surveyed said all troops were heroes, while 49 percent said that some were heroes depending on what they did.
The YouGov poll was conducted between July and September in the three countries. It asked respondents whether troops should be considered heroes and, if so, which ones qualify.
The sharp distinction between Germany and the U.S. underscores how vastly different the military's role is in each country. It also suggests the challenge German politicians face in increasing defense expenditures to meet NATO spending guidelines -- a sharp point of contention between Berlin and the Trump administration.
In Germany, shortfalls in military manpower have some political factions flirting with the idea of recruiting other European Union nationals into the German army.
While nearly a third of Germans withhold the hero designation from all of their fighters, only 5 percent of those polled in America said no troops are heroes and 12 percent said they didn't know.
The numbers demonstrate a tendency in the U.S. to put military members on a pedestal. A 2017 Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans had confidence in the military, the highest marks for any public institution. However, a 2016 book edited by current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Kori Schake, "Warriors and Citizens: American Views of our Military," found that few Americans were very familiar with the military or how it functions under civilian authority.
In Great Britain, only 6 percent of those polled said soldiers shouldn't ever be described as heroes. But Britons were more likely to reserve high praise for troops who performed heroic acts, with 32 percent saying that demonstrated bravery should factor into the equation.
While people over 40 in the U.S. hold military members in the highest regard, in Britain and Germany, younger people are most likely to say troops are heroes, according to YouGov.
Ambivalence among older Germans could be linked to their country's Nazi past and eventual defeat in World War II.
Twenty-five percent of Germans between 18 and 29 years of age said all troops were heroes, compared with just 7 percent of people over 60, according to YouGov.
In the U.S., women are more likely than men to consider any service member a hero: 57 percent, compared with 42 percent for men, who were more inclined to link heroism to serving in a combat role.