For nearly 50 years the Gallup organization has asked Americans to rate their confidence in the major institutions on our political and economic landscape.
While the faith our nation puts in things like Congress, big business, organized religion, or the public schools ebbs and flows, confidence in the U.S. military, perhaps not surprisingly, has consistently remained high.
When Gallup asked earlier this year, 69 percent of respondents said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in our troops. By comparison, newspapers scored 21 percent; public schools, 32 percent; big business, 18 percent; and Congress, 12 percent.
Interestingly, that 69 percent rating was the lowest for the Pentagon since 2007 – when it was also 69 during the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan – and only the second time it’s been below 70 percent in the last 20 years.
It turns out it was not a one-offer.
The Ronald Reagan Institute just released its national defense survey and found Americans’ trust and confidence in their troops experienced a “sharp decline” since Joe Biden became president.
“Almost a year into the Biden Administration and a few months removed from the Afghanistan withdrawal, the American people are equivocal and unsure about U.S. global leadership and military capabilities,” the report said.
The results reveal a “growing ambivalence about America’s role in the world.”
Only 45 percent of respondents exhibited a “great deal of trust” in the military – the first time that number has fallen below half and was down 25 percentage points to the lowest mark since the Reagan Institute began asking in 2018.
“Trust and confidence in the military is down across the major demographic subgroups, including age, gender, and party identification,” the report added. “Perhaps most troubling for recruitment in the all-volunteer force is that only a third (33%) of adults younger than 30 have high confidence in the military, which is down 20 points since 2018. Confidence is lower among young Americans than any other demographic subgroup, including ideological, religious, ethnic, economic, or geographic region.”
Asked differently, those who said they had “little or no” faith in the military has grown 15 percent.
When asked why, those respondents cited “political leadership” as the most common answer. Following closely behind that as other causes for this dissipating faith were military scandals, the military’s own leadership and the belief that the Pentagon has the “wrong priorities.”
“While high trust and confidence seems to attribute to our men and women in uniform,” the report noted, “the lack of confidence in our military seems to be more about a general negative sense than a predominate or precise reason.”
That lack of faith is showing up in another way.
The number of respondents who believe America has the best military forces in the world was recorded at 43 percent. Those who think America is simply among the best is a bit higher, at 45 percent.
The Reagan Institute was not sanguine about what the results showed.
“Today, the American people need a reminder of our country’s potential and its unique role in the world,” the report said.
“Americans’ concern about human rights abuses abroad demonstrate their continued commitment to America as a ‘shining city upon a hill’ and a beacon of freedom in the world. However, their reaction to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, overall perception of U.S. leadership, and declining confidence in the U.S. military indicate the need to reiterate the importance of ‘peace through strength’— the centerpiece of President Reagan’s foreign policy.”
“Today’s coarsened domestic politics and geopolitical upheaval, emerging threats and new technologies, extended conflicts and elusive adversaries all necessitate the values and principles of Reaganism,” the report concluded.
Now, if someone could only convince the Democrats in charge of Washington of that.
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