April 04, 2013

Public Endorsements by Senior Military Influence American Attitudes

In a study
released today by the Center for a New American Security, James Golby, Kyle
Dropp and Peter Feaver examine how Americans are influenced by senior military
officers' public opposition or support for U.S. military interventions. In Listening to the Generals: How
Military Advice Affects Public Support for the Use of Force
, the
authors disclose the findings of their national randomized survey of 5,500
adult Americans conducted in the summer of 2012, noting that "...military
opposition reduces public support for the use of force abroad by 7 percentage
points, whereas military support increases overall public support by 3
percentage points."

Download Listening to the Generals: How Military Advice Affects
Public Support for the Use of Force 

Golby, Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy; Mr. Dropp,
Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Stanford University; and Dr. Feaver,
Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Duke University also found
that such military cues are most influential among Republican  respondents
and that military influence is greatest when it opposes (rather than supports)
interventions abroad.

These results indicate a significant incentive for political leaders to seek
public endorsements from senior military leaders, according to the authors, and
could lead to "a problematic politicization" of the military. 
"...[T]he current high levels of public trust in military professionalism
could gradually be replaced by a  sense that the military is just another
political interest group," they say.  Dr. Golby, Mr. Dropp and Dr.
Feaver conclude, nonetheless, that the solution is not to suppress the
military's public views for fear of discouraging candor in internal
deliberations.  Instead, they recommend increased Congressional oversight
and public testimonies that provide increased opportunities for senior military
officers to share their views openly, thus encouraging "measured and
qualified advice" to the American people.