Americans’ trust and confidence in the U.S. military has declined precipitously in 2021, according to the results of a survey. Experts lay the blame on increasing political polarization and the fallout from this summer’s turbulent withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute’s National Defense Survey released Dec. 1 found that just 45 percent of those polled said they had “a great deal of trust and confidence” in the military as an institution. That marks a 25-point drop from November 2018 and an 11-point drop since February 2021.
Just three years ago, 70 percent of those surveyed said they had a great deal of confidence.
The overall trend over the past few editions of the survey has been downward, going from 70 percent in 2018 to 63 percent in 2019 to 54 percent in February 2021. But the most recent drop is the biggest, recorded just two months after many Americans were shocked by reports from Afghanistan that included video of civilians breaching the airfield at Hamid Karzai International Airport, desperate to flee the Taliban and clinging to the side of Air Force aircraft.
Republicans’ declining trust coincides with Republican lawmakers increasing criticism of military leaders for focusing on issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as extremism in the ranks.
“If there’s continuing loss of trust in institutions, it is almost inevitable that the military gets dragged into that a little bit, because it is a factor with political polarization,” said Nathalie Grogan, a researcher with the Center for a New American Security. “And that is, to my view, the biggest problem with the declining trust, is that the military is being seen as a political institution. And that’s demonstrated with the very significant drop in trust in the military among political conservatives.”
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