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Trust in US military remains below 50 percent: survey

The Hill logo The Hill 12/1/2022 Brad Dress
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Public trust in the U.S. military remains below 50 percent, according to a new survey released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

About 48 percent of Americans say they have a great deal of trust in the military, slightly up from 45 percent last year.

Confidence in the U.S. military has plummeted in recent years. In 2018, about 70 percent of Americans said they had a great deal of trust in the institution.

The drop to 45 percent last year was the first time only a minority of the American public expressed confidence in the armed forces in the Reagan Foundation’s survey.

Government institutions have seen a steep decline in public trust over the years, most notably the Supreme Court after a conservative majority overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June.

But the Reagan Foundation said “no other public institution” in its surveys has “seen as sharp a decline in public trust” than the military.

A Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote in an opinion piece last month that “many Americans think the military is no longer an institution that runs on excellence, merit and individual submission to a larger cause.”

“The current era is marked by fading trust in U.S. institutions, but confidence in one pillar has held up: the military,” it wrote. “But now even that is eroding.”

The survey, conducted on behalf of the Reagan Foundation by Beacon Research, also asked Americans why their trust in the military had dropped.

The leading answer was that military leadership had become overpoliticized, with 62 percent agreeing with that view.

Former President Trump’s tenure was marked by public feuds with administration and government officials, including veteran military officials he appointed to Cabinet positions. Trump sometimes derided them in public.

Other top reasons for a loss of trust in the new survey included the performance and competence of the military’s civilian leaders as well as the performance of the president, who serves as commander in chief.

About 47 percent of Americans said the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan were reasons for eroding trust.

That comes after President Biden oversaw a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, which is likely to be at the center of Republican probes once they assume control of the House in January.

Other Americans blame “woke” practices in the military, a perception that far-right extremists are embedded in military branches and the nation’s ability to win a potential future war.

The survey was conducted from Nov. 9 to Nov. 17 among more than 2,500 U.S. adult citizens.

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