Veterans Approve of Trump, But Don't Want Space Force, Pew Study Finds

President Trump speaks with veterans during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the American Normandy cemetery, Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Trump speaks with veterans during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the American Normandy cemetery, Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

More than half of U.S. veterans surveyed in a recent poll approve of President Donald Trump and the way he's commanding the nation's armed forces, but many say the president should forgo creating a sixth branch of the military for space.

A majority of vets -- 57% -- approve of the way Trump is handling his duties as commander in chief, according to a Pew Research Center study. However, 53% of veterans do not want a Space Force, which the administration is pursuing.

"Of the Trump-supported policies asked about in the survey, the only one which veterans disapprove of, on balance, is the idea of creating a new branch of the military called the Space Force," Pew said in its report, published Wednesday.

The report, titled "Trump Draws Stronger Support from Veterans Than the Public on Leadership of the U.S. Military," surveyed 1,284 U.S. military veterans between May 14 and June 3. Responses were categorized by age, political party affiliation, policies and time in service.

The president's approval rating recently rose among the general public to 44%, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The biggest divide among respondents was by political party: Most of the veterans polled for the study who said they favored Trump were likely to be Republican. Nine out of 10 veterans, or 92%, "who identify as Republican or who lean toward the Republican Party approve of Trump," Pew researchers said.

"Veterans who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning have a much more positive view of Trump's leadership of the military than their Democratic counterparts," the report states. "They are more likely to favor Trump-supported policies, such as the ban on transgender people serving in the military and the deployment of troops to the U.S.-Mexican border, and they are more likely to approve of Trump's approach to dealing with key allies and adversaries."

Pew conducted a parallel survey of 1,087 U.S. adults between May 14 and 24 to compare findings. Eighty-one percent of all Republican adults also approve of Trump as commander in chief.

"Republican veterans are generally more supportive of Trump's positions than Republicans overall," the researchers said.

By contrast, only 6% of Democratic veterans and 8% of Democrats overall approve of Trump's leadership.

Nearly half of veterans, or 45%, say Trump needs to consult military leaders more often and listen to their guidance, the report found.

While most vets agree with Trump on his approach to dealing with North Korea, Russia and NATO allies, among other policies, the political party divide is obvious.

Of the veterans surveyed, 89% of Republican veterans said sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border was a smart choice; only 12% of Democratic veterans approve. Similarly, 82% of Republican veterans approve of the U.S. withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, while only 11% of Democratic veterans agree.

Nearly 40% of veterans say military spending should be increased; Republican vets made up the majority of that category, or 48%, to increase spending.

Transgender people serving in the military is another divisive issue. Forty-six percent of veterans disapproved of the president's "transgender ban," which prohibits most transgender individuals from entering the military. However, most Republicans favor the ban: Seventy-eight percent of Republican-voting veterans approve of it, versus 57% of Republican adults overall.

Opinions are similarly divided on how Trump has dealt with Russia since the 2016 election.

Pew said that veterans are more likely to approve (54%) of how Trump has cooperated with Russia, whereas the American public overall (58%) disapproves. However, "Republican veterans are more likely than Republicans in the general public to approve of Trump's dealings" when it comes to Russia, as well as how he has worked with NATO allies, the report states.

While most veterans said they trust Trump to make the right call on the use of military force, as well as a nuclear strike, the results were not sweeping. Thirty-six percent of vets said they trust the president "a great deal," while 22% said they trust him "a fair amount" in these categories.

Almost half of vets, or 48%, also say the president has made the military "stronger" since coming into office.

But responses varied by age group. Nearly 55% of veterans 65 and older said they believe Trump respects veterans and the military. Pew also said that male veterans are "17 percentage points more likely than their female counterparts to say Trump respects veterans a great deal (50% vs. 33%)."

Additionally, vets who served before Sept. 11, 2001 are more likely than those who served after to say that Trump administration policies have made the military stronger. That division also applies to the president's potential use of nuclear weapons.

Pre-9/11 vets, 38% of respondents, are more likely to trust Trump when it comes to a nuclear weapons strike than those who served more recently, the report states. Younger veterans are less trusting, especially those who may have suffered from a trauma associated with a combat deployment.

Veterans who say they "had an emotionally traumatic experience while in combat," 27% of respondents, are less likely to trust Trump in making decisions about the use of force than are those who didn't, the researchers said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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