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Slightly More Americans Say U.S. Is No. 1 Military Power

Slightly More Americans Say U.S. Is No. 1 Military Power

Story Highlights

  • Fifty-nine percent hold this view, up from 53% in 2014
  • Older less likely than younger adults to say U.S. is top military power
  • Nearly seven in 10 say it is important for U.S. to be No. 1 militarily

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the U.S. military takes on an active role in the fight against the Islamic State group, slightly more Americans, 59%, say the U.S. is the No. 1 military power in the world. This is up six percentage points from February 2014, before the U.S. military became involved in the fight against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. Fewer Americans (38%) now say the U.S. is only one of several leading military powers, down from 44% a year ago.

Americans' Views on How U.S. Military Ranks

These results come from Gallup's annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 8-11, 2015. The U.S. military has expanded its operations significantly since this time last year, regularly conducting air strikes in Iraq and Syria in an effort to root out Islamic extremists. Additionally, the U.S. now provides military training to anti-government rebels in Syria and the prospect of sending military aid to the besieged Ukrainian government looms large. The U.S. military also played a crucial role in helping countries in West Africa battle the deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

This expanded workload for the U.S. military may be driving the uptick in the percentage of Americans who say the U.S. military is the top in the world, rather than one of several competing powers. While a majority of Americans have said the U.S. has the world's top military power since this question was first asked in 1993, the percentage who say this remains below the high of 64% recorded in 2010. In the following years, as the U.S. continued to withdraw troops from a long-term engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, smaller percentages of Americans said the U.S. was No. 1 militarily.

Older Americans Less Likely Than Young to Say U.S. Is No. 1 Militarily

Older Americans are less likely than their younger counterparts to say the U.S. is No. 1 militarily. A slim majority of U.S. adults aged 50 and older (54%) say the U.S. is top militarily, well below the 64% of Americans younger than 50 who say the same. Older adults are more likely to have clearer memories of the Cold War and the military prestige the U.S. enjoyed after the fall of the Soviet Union. As such, these older Americans may be more likely to feel that U.S. military power is not as strong now as it was then.

U.S. Views on Stength of U.S. Military, by Age

Strong Majority Says It Is Important for U.S. Military to Be No. 1

About two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) say it is important for the U.S. to be No. 1 in the world militarily, up six points from two years ago. Overall, Americans have consistently said it is important for the U.S. military to be No. 1 in the world over the past two decades, emphasizing the importance most Americans place on their country's military preponderance.

Importance of the U.S. to Be No. 1 in the World Militarily

Bottom Line

As the U.S. military takes a more active role on the world stage relative to the past few years, more Americans believe their military is superior. While the U.S. identity has many facets -- its inventive economy, democratic tradition and history of being a "melting pot" -- America's formidable military has been an important source of national pride. Even after two unpopular military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans continue to see the military power of the U.S. as an important component of the country's global standing.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 8-11, 2015, with a random sample of 837 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, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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