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Confidence in U.S. Military Lowest in Over Two Decades

Confidence in U.S. Military Lowest in Over Two Decades

Story Highlights

  • Public confidence in the U.S. military continues to decline
  • Drops seen across party groups, but Republicans remain most confident
  • Independents least likely to express confidence this year

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are now less likely to express “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the U.S. military, with a noticeable decline that has persisted for the past five years. The latest numbers are from a June 1-22 Gallup poll that also captured record lows in public confidence in several public institutions.


At 60%, confidence in the military was last this low in 1997, and it hasn’t been lower since 1988, when 58% were confident. From the late 1970s to the early 1980s -- during the Cold War and amid threats to U.S. power, including the Iran hostage crisis -- between 50% and 58% of Americans were confident in the military. Confidence generally improved during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s. It then surged after the Gulf War victory (to a record-high 85% in 1991) and again after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Confidence generally held above 70% for the next two decades, until dipping to 69% in 2021 and declining further since then, following the exit from Afghanistan.

Republican Confidence in Military Slumps

Throughout nearly all of the past 48 years, Republicans have been the most likely to express confidence in the military, and they remain so today -- but the rate has declined by over 20 percentage points in three years, from 91% to 68%.

Independents’ confidence has dropped nearly as much -- by 13 points, from 68% to 55% -- and now independents have less confidence than Democrats do. While Democrats’ confidence rating did rise after President Joe Biden assumed office, those gains have disappeared in the past year.


Bottom Line

Public perceptions of the U.S. military have fluctuated dramatically over the past five decades. The aftermaths of the Gulf War and 9/11 were followed by resounding upticks in confidence in the military. The latter of these surges ushered in an era of elevated confidence lasting nearly two decades.

Now that the U.S. has completely withdrawn from both Iraq and Afghanistan, the two most significant military legacies of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., confidence in the military has continued to decline among the public. The declines this year were across all party identification groups, with Republicans remaining the most likely to express confidence and independents becoming the least likely.

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