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U.S. Military Personnel, Veterans Give Obama Lower Marks

U.S. Military Personnel, Veterans Give Obama Lower Marks

PRINCETON, NJ -- U.S. military veterans and those currently on active military duty are less likely to approve of President Obama's job performance than are Americans of comparable ages who are not in the military.

Barack Obama Job Approval, by Veteran/Active-Duty Status and Age, January 2010-April 2011

These results are based on an analysis of more than 238,000 interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from January 2010 through April 2011. Respondents were classified as veterans/active-duty military based on responses to a series of questions probing whether any member of the household had served in the U.S. military, and whether the respondent himself or herself had served and, if so, whether the respondent was currently on active duty. Americans currently serving in the military overseas or on ships at sea would not be included in this national cell and landline telephone sample.

Thirty-seven percent of all active-duty military personnel and veterans surveyed approved of the job Obama is doing during the January 2010 to April 2011 time frame. That compares with 48% of nonveterans interviewed during the same period.

Obama's approval rating varies by age, with younger Americans in general most likely to approve and older Americans least likely. The gap in approval between veterans/active duty military and nonveterans persists across the age spectrum, from 18- to 29-year-olds to those 80 and older.

Differences Across Gender Groups

Veterans and active-duty military, particularly those 40 and older, are predominantly men, and men are less likely to approve of the job Obama is doing than are women. However, the gap in Obama job approval between veterans/active-duty military and nonveterans persists among men in each age group.

Women who are serving or have served in the military are on a relative basis more positive about Obama than is the case for men who are members of the military or veterans. Female veterans or those in the military between the ages of 30 and 49, for example, are actually slightly more likely to approve of Obama than are nonveteran women in this age group.

Active-Duty Military Less Likely to Express an Opinion on Obama

Although active-duty military personnel are less likely to approve of the job Obama is doing than are national adults overall, this group's disapproval is only marginally higher than that of national adults. This is because active-duty military -- particularly those under 40 -- are significantly more likely to say they have no opinion about Obama's job performance than is the case for all adults in the same age group.

Obama Job Approval, Active-Duty Military vs. National Adults, by Age

There are several possible explanations for this finding. Those on active duty may in general be less involved in politics and current affairs and thus less likely to hold an opinion on Obama or other political matters. Or, it could be that members of the active-duty military are adhering to a general nonpartisan norm within the military culture, and are therefore less willing to express an opinion to a survey interviewer, regardless of what they may actually believe.

Military Service Rare Among the Young, Highly Prevalent Among Seniors

The basic pattern of military service among Americans is remarkably -- albeit not surprisingly -- differentiated by age and gender. Across all age groups, most active-duty military personnel and veterans are men. For American men under age 60, the percentage who have served or currently serve in the military ranges from 8% in the youngest age group to 21% of those aged 50 to 59. The percentage of military veterans is much greater among those 60 and older, reaching a peak of 75% among men aged 80 to 99.

Percentage in U.S. Who Are Military Veterans or on Active Duty, by Gender and Age, January 2010-April 2011

Bottom Line

Americans who currently serve or previously served in the U.S. military are less likely to approve of the job President Obama is doing than are those who have not served in the military, by about 10 percentage points. This approval gap occurs across age groups.

For younger, post-draft-era veterans, individuals with certain regional, demographic, or psychographic backgrounds may be more likely to be Republican and more likely to join the military. For older veterans, their service in the military may have led them to a more Republican viewpoint on politics, either during their service or in later years.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking January 2010 through April 2011, with a random sample of 238,673 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point. The maximum margin of sampling error will be larger for subgroups of veterans and active-duty military.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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