American confidence in the U.S. military has reached its lowest point in the past two decades, according to recent data from Gallup. When asked about their level of confidence in the military, only 60% of respondents said they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence. This level of confidence hasn’t been seen since 1997 and hasn’t been lower since 1988, when 58% expressed their trust in the military.
The decline in confidence is particularly notable among Republicans, who were once the most confident in the military. Over the past three years, Republican confidence has dropped by more than 20 percentage points, going from 91% to 68%. Independents’ confidence has also seen a significant decline, dropping by 13 points, from 68% to 55%. Meanwhile, Democrats’ confidence rating initially rose after President Joe Biden took office, but the gains have disappeared over the past year, now standing at 62%.
Gallup’s analysis of the findings points out that public perceptions of the U.S. military have fluctuated significantly over the past five decades. Major events such as the Gulf War and the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to surges in confidence, while recent events like the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the decline in public trust in the military.
During the Cold War in the late 1970s and early 1980s, confidence levels in the military ranged from 50% to 58%. Confidence improved during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s, and it reached a record-high of 85% after the Gulf War victory in 1991. Similarly, after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, confidence surged again.
For the next two decades, confidence generally remained above 70%, until it dipped to 69% in 2021 and has been declining further since the United States’ tumultuous exit from Afghanistan.
Despite the decline, the military has retained more public trust compared to other institutions such as the police, public schools, and organized religion, which have experienced significant drops in confidence according to Gallup’s data.
The margin of error for the Gallup Poll Social Series was not specified in the report.