There's been a lot of justifiable concern about the strain that the war in Iraq has placed on the US Army and especially on the families of Reservists and National Guardsmen who've been called up for duty overseas. So I was interested to see that this week's Army Times has the results of an election survey among 31,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard troops who subscribe to the AT or one of its sister publications (Navy Times, etc.). The poll was taken by email during the period Sept 21-28 of this year.
The Army Times is an independent newspaper devoted to news and info for soldiers and their families. The online report is for paid subscribers only, so I thought I'd post the results as I read them in the print copy. The results might not be fully representative of military opinion, because they were submitted voluntarily by those who gave email addresses to the publisher when they subscribed rather than being drawn via an independent random selection.
The sample group is a bit older than the military at large and contains a higher percentage of officers, and therefore may under-represent Democrats as a result. Nonetheless, some of the results may surprise many readers.
The respondents were broken down into two groups: Active Duty (AD) troops and Reserve / National Guard (RN) troops. (Apologies for the formatting, I don't have time to set up an html table for this right now.)
If the presidential elections were held today, for whom would you vote?
Bush: AD- 72%, RN-73%
Kerry: AD- 17%, RN-18%
Nader: AD- 1%, RN-1%
Other: AD- 1%, RN-1%
Declined to answer: AD- 2%, RN-1%
Among Active Duty who were deployed 2 or more months since 9/11, the percentage for Bush goes up to 74%. Among the Reserve / National Guard deployed for 2 or more months since 9/11 (whether in a combat zone or elsewhere), Bush gets 76% of the vote.
When asked "What are the most important issues of you in deciding for whom you will vote for president?", the answers were:
The war in Iraq: AD-66%, RN-72%
The character of the candidate: AD-64%, RN-66%
The economy: AD-53%, RN-58%
Social issues: AD-34%, RN-36%
None of the above: AD-4%, RN-3%
Do you approve of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?
Approve: AD-60%, RN-63%
Disapprove: AD-23%, RN-25%
No opinion: AD-8%, RN-5%
Declined to answer: AD-8%, RN-6%
A few things stand out about these numbers. First, I don't think anyone can claim that the military are puppets who salute and vote for whomever is in the White House. Furthermore, the Army Times notes that many military have chafed under Rumsfeld's criticisms and policies, which may be one reason support for Bush's handling of Iraq is a bit softer than for re-electing him.
On the question of Vietnam in this election, neither Kerry's service nor Bush's is a big issue for the respondents in this poll. But Kerry's anti-war activities when he got home clearly is.
In making your decision about voting for president, how important is the military service record of the candidates?
Very important: AD-12%, RN-16%
Somewhat important: AD - 47%, RN-54%
No opinion: AD-19%, RN-8%
Somewhat unimportant: AD-19%, RN-14%
Very unimportant: AD- 10%, RN-7%
Do George W. Bush's actions while in the National Guard make you more or less likely to vote for him - or will they not have much effect on your vote?
More likely: AD-6%, RN-10%
Less likely: AD-12%, RN-16%
Not much effect: AD-73%, RN-68%
No opinion: AD-8%, RN-5%
Does John Kerry's combat experience in the Vienam War make you more or less likely to vote for him - or will they not have much effect on your vote?
More likely: AD-12%, RN-15%
Less likely: AD-21%, RN-26%
Not much effect: AD-58%, RN-53%
No opinion: AD-7%, RN-5%
Do John Kerry's anti-war activities after he returned from serving in the Vienam War make you more or less likely to vote for him - or will they not have much effect on your vote?
More likely: AD-7%, RN-9%
Less likely: AD-65%, RN-67%
Not much effect: AD-24%, RN-20%
No opinion: AD-3%, RN-2%