Public's Confidence in the Military Drops Again

the Crucible aboard Marine Corps Depot Parris Island
Recruits with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, hikes with ammo cans during a night movement and supply event during the Crucible aboard Marine Corps Depot Parris Island, Oct 3, 2019. (Ryan Hageali/U.S. Marine Corps)

The public's confidence in the military is the lowest it's been since 1997, according to a new poll released by Gallup.

A June study found that only 60% of respondents reported "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the military, a steady downward trend for one of America's most trusted institutions. In 2009, the same question garnered an 82% vote of confidence from the public.

The plummet in trust for the military appears to be most dramatic among Republicans, where Gallup measured a 20% decline in confidence over just three years. In 2020, Republican confidence in the military was measured at 91% -- nearly the highest it's been since 1975. The new poll measured their confidence at 68%.

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"Now that the U.S. has completely withdrawn from both Iraq and Afghanistan, the two most significant military legacies of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., confidence in the military has continued to decline among the public," the Gallup analysis of the study, released Monday, said.

While the military shifts its attention toward the Pacific to challenge China's influence in the region, it has struggled with recruiting and finding a public identity post-Afghanistan.

Conservatives have recently targeted the military, especially in the wake of the tumultuous pullout from Afghanistan, citing policies like diversity initiatives and travel reimbursement for reproductive care, including abortions.

Confidence for Independents dropped by 13 points. Democrats -- whose trust has never risen above 80% -- also lost confidence in the military, declining from 68% to 62%.

America's confidence in the military has waxed and waned since the mid-1970s, however. The Cold War -- specifically as measured in 1981 -- saw the public's lowest confidence in the military at 50%.

After the Gulf War, the military garnered its highest percentage of public trust at 85%, which soon plummeted to the mid-low 60s for the rest of the 1990s. After the 9/11 attacks, confidence exploded into the 80s again.

"Confidence generally held above 70% for the next two decades, until dipping to 69% in 2021 and declining further since then, following the poorly executed exit from Afghanistan," the Gallup report found.

Despite the decline, the military is still one of the country's most confidence-evoking institutions, second only to small business. Most institutions measured by Gallup saw some decline, including the police, banks and newspapers.

The Gallup survey was conducted from June 1 to June 22 this year. It recorded responses from 1,013 people living in all 50 states at a 95% confidence level.

-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.

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