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In the middle of the political spectrum Survey: Troops trend moderate, not conservative, in beliefs

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Reposted from Military Times.  July 13, 2009.  A8.

By William H. McMichael (bmcmichael@militarytimes.com)

A new study upends the gener­al notion that the military’s ranks are dominated by staunchly conservative Republicans.
  In fact, less than one-fifth of troops describe themselves that way, according to a new study by Donald Inbody, a University of Texas doctoral candidate and retired Navy captain.
  Most of the force — about 85 per­cent — is enlisted, and those troops generally exhibit a moderate ideol­ogy and a strong sense of partisan independence, Inbody found.
  He said far more troops — by a 2-to-1 margin — identify them­selves as Republicans rather than Democrats. But Inbody found that the percentage of Republicans in the ranks is no different than that found in the general population. The relatively low number of those reporting Democratic lean­ings is leavened by the high percentage of active-duty enlisted troops who described themselves as fully independent — about three times higher than in the general population.
  Senior officers and noncommis­sioned officers — those with the most years of service — tend to be more conservative, said Inbody, who teaches political science at Texas State University. But most of those who identify with a party consider themselves moderates or “leaning” that way, he found. No moderates or “leaners” were included in his tabulation of inde­pendents, he said.
  In other words, Inbody conclud­ed in his seven-month study of 2,652 survey responses, the popu­lar image of the military as rigidly conservative and Republican is a misconception.
  “The American military is a dis­tinct population with distinct characteristics,” he wrote. “In marked contrast to past conven­tional wisdom, it is not comprised of the undereducated and poor, and it is not made up of … ideolog­ically extreme or exceptionally partisan [people].
  “And the enlisted personnel who are the overwhelming majority and the backbone of the military certainly are not a mirror image of the officer corps in terms of demographics, partisanship and politi­cal ideology.” Service members also tend to be politically savvy, Inbody said. The 2008 National Election Study of the general population, for exam­ple, reported that nearly 70 per­cent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the state­ment: “Politics and government seem so complicated that a person like me can’t really understand what is going on.” In Inbody’s study, only 28 per­cent of active-duty enlisted per­sonnel agreed with that state­ment, while more than 68 percent somewhat or strongly disagreed. 
  Troops also vote at a higher rate — 70 percent — than the general population, despite the fact that about 70 percent of enlisted mem­bers are under age 30. That could be explained by two factors, Inbody said: the military’s efforts to encour­age voting and the level of education in the ranks, which is higher than in the general population.
  “It’s good that they’re participat­ing,” Inbody said in an interview. “That was one of the big fears [about] the all-volunteer force — we were going to end up with this walled-off population that didn’t really understand civilian society, and civilian society didn’t really understand it.” If his findings are accurate, the Democratic Party may have made a huge miscalculation in 2000 dur­ing the controversial recount of ballots cast in the razor-thin pres­idential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore — the results of which Inbody said spurred him to pursue his current studies.
  “The Democrats immediately came out with their initial plan of blocking as many of those overseas ballots as possible, and the Republi­cans of course came out on the other side,” Inbody said. “Granted, the Democrats quickly changed their story. But the initial reaction tells me that the Democrats assumed that that military vote was heavily in the Republicans’ favor.
  “I think they made a mistake.” Inbody said the Democratic assumption didn’t match up with what he knew of the military. His naval career included a stint as a budget officer responsible for the Navy manpower account, and he knew that the military is under­represented by Caucasians and overrepresented by minorities, based on their U.S. population percentages.
  And most minority groups “tend to identify” as Democrats, he said. “With an assumption that the military strongly favors one party or the other, politicians may make policy decisions based on that,” he said. “And if their assumption is wrong, their policy decisions may indeed be wrong.” Federal law bars asking troops how they voted or plan to vote. Inbody drew from a variety of unofficial sources to canvass ser­vice members with a wide-rang­ing 52-question survey. All respondents are or were on active duty or in the National Guard or reserves.

 

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Recommended citation: William H. McMichael. 2009, July 6. “In the Middle of the Political Spectrum Survey: Troops Trend Moderate, Not Conservative, in Beliefs.  Military Times. A8.


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ARMY
A soldier registers to vote before the presidential election last year. A new study says many service members are politically independent rather than staunch Republicans.

Written by inbody

July 6th, 2009 at 12:38 pm

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