Annenberg Military Climate Survey

Service Men and Women Upbeat on Bush, War In Iraq, Economy and Intend To Vote, Annenberg Data Show [PDF] (Annenberg)

America̢۪s military service men and women and their families are convinced that the country is going in the right direction, like George W. Bush much more than the civilian population does, support the war in Iraq more strongly and are more positive about the economy, the University of Pennsylvania̢۪s National Annenberg Election Survey shows.

From September 22 through October 5, Annenberg polled 655 adults who have either served on active duty between February and October or who were family members of those who served but were not available to be interviewed. Their answers were compared to the responses of 2,436 adults polled nationally from September 27 through October 3. The survey did not ask the voting preference of the respondents because a 1948 statute prohibits polling members of the armed services about whom they intend to vote for.

The Pentagon is making intense efforts to get troops on active duty to vote this year, and 94 percent of the military sample said they intended to vote in the presidential election, compared to 85 percent of the civilian population. Eighty-nine percent of the military sample said they were registered, compared to 82 percent of the general population. Most of the polling was conducted before registration deadlines had passed, Seventy-seven percent of the military sample said they had learned enough about the candidates and the issues to cast an informed vote, compared to 65 percent of the general population. But at the same time, reflecting the non-political tradition of the American military, 55 percent said it would be inappropriate to ask someone of equal rank to vote for a Presidential candidate. Junior enlisted personnel disagreed; 52 percent said it would be appropriate. Whether they urge anyone to vote for him or not, a variety of measures showed that they preferred Bush to John Kerry. Sixty-nine percent had a favorable opinion of Bush and 23 percent an unfavorable opinion. But only 29 percent had a favorable opinion of Kerry, while 54 percent were unfavorable. (Bush and Kerry both had small favorable balances in the general population.)

This tracks quite closely with another recent survey showing that subscribers to the Military Times newspaper overwhelmingly supported President Bush over Senator Kerry.

The internals of the poll are even more favorable for President Bush:

When asked whom they would trust more to handle the responsibility of commander-in-chief, 69 percent of the military sample preferred Bush to 24 percent for Kerry. The civilian group also preferred Bush, but by only a 50 to 41 percent majority. When asked if the country was “going in the right direction†or was “seriously off on the wrong track,†64 percent of the military sample said “right track†and 31 percent said “wrong direction.†In the general population a majority said “wrong trackâ€; 55 percent took that view compared to 37 percent who said “right direction.†On all four of these measures, there were almost no differences between regular military respondents and those who served in the guard and reserves. Family members were less supportive of Bush than their active duty relatives. Families of guard and reserve members were the least supportive, but even in that last group narrow majorities took his side. There was little difference based on the rank of service members, although commissioned officers and NCOs and their families were slightly more supportive than junior enlisted members and their families.

When it came to the war in Iraq, 64 percent of the military sample said the situation had been worth going to war over, while 32 percent said it had not. Of those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby, a smaller share, only 55 percent, said the war had been worth it; 40 percent said it had not. In the general population, 45 percent said the war had been worth it and 51 percent said it had not.

Again, the direction is not hugely surprising but the magnitude still rather impressive. Not only are we in the middle of an unpopular war but the president’s opponent is a decorated war hero. That the numbers are this lopsided is rather telling. Further, mere partisanship doesn’t seem to explain it:

A partial explanation for the pro-Bush tilt of the military sample was that they were considerably more Republican than the general population. Forty-three percent called themselves Republican, 19 percent called themselves Democrats and 28 percent said they were independents. While the party identification of respondents in national polls moves around a bit from week to week, this was strikingly more Republican than the general population in the September 27-October 3 sample. There, 28 percent called themselves Republican, 34 percent Democratic and 27 percent independent.

But this Republican partisanship explained only some but not all of the differences, because on many questions the Republican service members were more pro-Bush than their civilian fellow partisans. Independents in the military sample, when compared to civilians, were also more pro-Bush. For example, 94 percent of Republicans in the military sample approved of Bush̢۪s handling of his job as president, compared to 88 percent of civilian Republicans. Among Democrats, 23 percent of those in the military sample approved, while 20 percent in the general population did. Among independents, 59 percent of those in the military sample approved while just 48 percent of those in the general population did.

A well-constructed survey. Give it a looksee.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kenneth says:

    I think the reason for the surge in republicans in the military is because of the Reagan Era. He brought pride back to the United States after a few decades of getting our butts kicked by smaller countries. Korea, Vietnam, Iran. He came in after 444 days of the hostage crisis and suddenly Iran put the hostages on a plane for home. Lybia had been a major sponsor of terrorist actions when Reagan ignored Lybia’s Line of Death. When Lybia tried to attack the task force, Reagan launched and all out attack on Tripoli and nearly killed Khadaffi. Since then, we haven’t heard much from Lybia. Reagan even sent troops into Granada to stop the building of an air strip capable of launching Backfire Bombers at the US. He restored pride in the USA.