Results of the annual 2013 Military Times Poll of active-duty subscribers to the Gannett-owned Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Times newspapers, reveal political shifts and unresolved concerns about the consequences of social engineering in the military. (See April 1 edition, pp. 8-10) Trends on women in land combat and gays in the military hardly indicate that the administration's policies are universally supported by the men and women who serve.
An article titled "Military Support for GOP Eroding, But Not Conservatism," runs contrary to professional "advice" trying to push the Republican Party to the left. Military readers said they remain conservative, but support for Republicans has dropped and shifted to the Independent/Libertarian faction, not to Democrats.
About 36% of troops surveyed in 2013 expressed support for the GOP − a big drop since 2006, when about half of all troops identified as Republicans. Those identifying themselves as conservatives, however, dropped only slightly, from 44% to 41% since 2006.
On the hot issue of women in land combat, bar-graphs show that 18% of active-duty subscriber respondents said that elimination of "restrictions on women" in combat (with the phrase not defined) would have a "Major/significant positive impact." More than twice as many, 39%, said it would have a "significant/major negative impact," with 44% saying "no impact."
Among "combat troops," (an undefined group that may have included more than all-male "tip of the spear" fighters), 46% said they "Think it's a bad idea." Another 17% said they "Will wait and see," whatever that means, and 37% said they "Support the change."
It is possible that the latter number includes military men who favor women in combat for less than positive reasons. In a major survey of active duty personnel done for the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces and presented to the commission in September 1992, a significant cohort of male respondents said they wanted to punish women by subjecting them to close combat. Noted military sociologist Prof. Charles Moskos and his colleague Laura L. Miller, who conducted the survey for the presidential commission, labeled this faction of resentful men "egalitarian sexists" or "hostile proponents."
Another Military Times Poll graph that relates to women in combat reveals what could be serious ambivalence about young girls being ordered into the infantry. Respondents were asked, if they had a son or daughter who was planning to join the military, would they support that decision? Answers were inconsistent, based on gender.
For the sons, 67% of respondents said Yes, they would support a decision to join the military, with 33% saying No, they would not. For the daughters, however, only 48% said Yes, with 52% saying No, they would not support a decision to join.
But wait − aren't women supposed to be excited about the Pentagon's big push to order women into direct ground combat? According to "conventional wisdom," exposure of women to violence in combat is supposed to make the armed forces more attractive to young women and their parents. If military personnel are skeptical, that counter-intuitive theory probably is mistaken.
Youth surveys show that the propensity of young women to serve in the military is only about a third that of men. In addition, research data presented to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) in September 2011 showed that if women could serve in combat roles, 29% of potential female recruits said they would be less likely to join the military, compared to 12% of women who said they would be more likely to join. So much for women in combat policies being a magnet for new recruits.
LGBT Law -- All Is Not Well
On the issue of gays in the military, findings were similar to those reported by the Military Times newspapers last year. The percentage of respondents indicating approval of gay troops increased and opposition decreased since 2012, but of the number saying that they knew of a gay person coming out (32%), 6% said the impact was positive, but almost four times as many, 22%, said the impact was negative.
In 2012, only 19% of active-duty/reserve respondents to the Military Times Poll said that someone "came out" in their units. Of the 19% having personal experience with the repeal, 5% said the impact was positive, but over four times as many respondents with personal experience (21%) reported negative results.
For the second year in a row, the Military Times has made no apparent effort to find out why four times as many respondents have reported that the impact of repeal has been negative. Inconvenient information such as this, it seems, would not fit the template.
In both years the remainder of respondents, 73%, said they were not aware of any impact from repeal. Given the small number of people personally affected by the inclusion of gays in the military, this is not surprising. Not all personnel are deployed, living in close quarters, or confronted with changes that the Pentagon still has not defined.
The 5%-6% survey figures for respondents who are pleased with the repeal probably represent satisfied gay personnel and others who were pleased by repeal of Bill Clinton's convoluted "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" administrative policy. This faction likely will increase if LGBT activists succeed in their push for extension of all family benefits to same-sex couples. How would that benefit the military as a whole?
It will take years before the full meaning of Congress's misguided vote for LGBT law will start to show up in civilian polls, but the military polls are likely to show signs of problems first. The first step is to ask the right questions, and then ask more questions to find out what is wrong.
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