Super Bowl flyovers, TV commercials celebrating veterans, yellow-ribbon bumper stickers: It’s long been reflexive for Americans of all political persuasions to “support our troops.” Following Sept. 11 and the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, pride in the U.S. military and gratitude for troops’ service ran high, even among people opposed to those conflicts. In the years since 2000, multiple surveys have shown the public trusts the U.S. military more than any other public institution—more than organized religion and the Supreme Court, and vastly more than Congress.
But the increasing politicization of the military, a string of sexual assault scandals, the role of dozens of enlisted troops and veterans in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, and other factors have shaken that trust. According to a Reagan Institute survey conducted in February, confidence in the military has fallen by 14 percentage points since 2018—from 70% to 56%. The drop was significant regardless of age, gender, or party affiliation, and is in line with trends other researchers have observed.
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