T Nation

Troops for Bush

Item:

The Army Times is reporting that active-duty servicemembers are backing Bush over Kerry 72-17 (with 1 percent for Nader). The numbers are just about identical for the reserves and the Guard. This isn’t shocking, but it is a corrective to some of the news coverage. The story is online at the Army Times site, but only for subscribers.

In the military you basically have two types, the young impressionable recruits and the career folks.

The young recruits are so pumped up on the boot camp “we’ll kick anybody’s ass” rhetoric and so in awe of their sergeants and officers like young children they will say what they think will make daddy happy! I know, I was one when I was eighteen.

The career types know that if they want to keep their career heading in the right direction and they have liberal leanings it is better to keep their mouths shut and toe the party line.

Coincidentally I live in an army town and I know several soldiers who have been in Iraq some time within the last year, one a special forces e-7 and I shit you not they are voting for Kerry. I know the majority of military people are voting for the emperor, but their are many that are not!

[quote]Elkhntr1 wrote:
In the military you basically have two types, the young impressionable recruits and the career folks.

The young recruits are so pumped up on the boot camp “we’ll kick anybody’s ass” rhetoric and so in awe of their sergeants and officers like young children they will say what they think will make daddy happy! I know, I was one when I was eighteen.

The career types know that if they want to keep their career heading in the right direction and they have liberal leanings it is better to keep their mouths shut and toe the party line.

Coincidentally I live in an army town and I know several soldiers who have been in Iraq some time within the last year, one a special forces e-7 and I shit you not they are voting for Kerry. I know the majority of military people are voting for the emperor, but their are many that are not![/quote]

Yes, many are. Apparently 17% or so.

This is an area where the numbers may not reflect reality. What people say and what people do are not always the same thing…

[quote]vroom wrote:
This is an area where the numbers may not reflect reality. What people say and what people do are not always the same thing…[/quote]

As opposed to all the other polls everyone is basing analyses on?

The majority of the population is not in the military and doesn’t have a “belonging” mentality to which they must conform.

I think in the military that many people who are against the president know better than to voice such an opinion.

The rest of the polls are probably pretty close.

I work with the military on a daily basis.

In summary. They hated Clinton. They love Bush. They think Kerry is a joke.

That goes from the top to the bottom. They are pretty vocal about it also.

i just got out of the air national guard a few months ago. 17% sounds a little low, but not off by much. there is definitely pressure to conform to the GOP way of seeing things. there were people i spoke with there that believed the country was united more than ever over bush’s actions and attitudes.

people in the military are starting to be more vocal in their opposition to bush, but it is not looked on kindly.

[quote]vroom wrote:
The majority of the population is not in the military and doesn’t have a “belonging” mentality to which they must conform.

I think in the military that many people who are against the president know better than to voice such an opinion.

The rest of the polls are probably pretty close.[/quote]

It’s a poll. WHy would they be scared to let a pollster know how they feel? Are you kidding?

I was recently medically discharded for an injury incurred during an ABN OP overseas. I served proudly as a both an infantry NCO, and later as an infantry officer.

During several schools, I remember being repeatedly told politics were off-limits. My oath included informed allegiance to the president. It was unlawful to speak or act contemptuously against the chain of command.

Having said that, I sometimes disagreed with my chain of command. But being a professional, I kept my opinions to myself; their orders were not unlawful. When asked to comment upon an action taken by a superior by outsiders, I followed party sentiment.

Military folk are extremely loyal to one another with few exceptions. It is a family, and the president is the father figure.

So, if a pollster was granted permission to speak with the ranks (and permission is often granted), the ranks most often remain loyal. The pollster is an outsider.

The personnel of the military are but a representative of the wider population. While open partisanship is discouraged, we still hold biases and opinions like our civilian counterparts. It is very reasonable to assume that we are split along similar party lines as well, with a bit more support for a Republican candidate, and even more for a Republican incumbent.

Having said that, many of my military peers support Bush, but are voting for change, they are voting for Kerry. Or at least claim to be.

BB, you wrote of evaluation by proxy in another thread. Perhaps it holds true for more than just Senatorial records.

The framers established the presidential election as a referendum on the incumbent. It amazes me that the educated public seems to disregard this.

So, presuming any of these projected critiques are founded, what do you think that comes to for an error rate? 10%? (huge) 15%? (extraordinary) (those assume a representative poll sample of proper size)

Even given that, it’s still a large majority of support for Bush over Kerry – unless you’re suggesting that 22% of those who will pull the lever for Kerry would feel compelled to lie about their preferences on a telephone poll or confidential questionairre (depending on the poll methodology)?

In general, I would guess your effect wouldn’t even take the poll outside the margin of error – but then again, I’m not in the military, even though I know lots of people who are (especially living here in Arlington, VA, so close to the Pentagon).

It’s well established that most of the folks in the military tend to vote Republican.

The real story this year is that military support for the GOP candidate is expected to be weaker than it would usually be. A higher percentage than usual of the military will vote for Kerry, or simply not vote for Bush.

That is also the story with many Republicans and conservatives this year. A higher percentage than usual will vote for Kerry, or simply not vote for Bush.

Lumpy:

Do you have any stats on how the military voted last year? Just curious. I would be interested to see what the variance is between the poll and that number, especially given the speculation on lying to the pollsters.

Maybe Hedo knows.

You’re correct, BB. Virginia has a strong military presence. I was stationed in Williamsburg.

And yes, I think that military folk generally vote Republican; this election will be no different. But 72-17 in favor of Bush? In my experience, this result sounds extraordinary.

Professor Feaver is one of the country’s leading authority’s on civil-military relationships, and he seems to think this poll is pretty well reflective of what the military thinks concerning Bush v. Kerry.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25656-2004Oct11.html
[Registration required to follow link]

Whose Military Vote?

By Peter D. Feaver
Tuesday, October 12, 2004; Page A23

Pundits have long speculated that the Democrats were making strong inroads with a constituency hitherto notoriously resistant to their appeal: the military. Since Gen. Wesley Clark threw his hat in the presidential ring, reporters have chased the “military vote” story, each new media report sprinkled with anecdotes about troops who questioned the Iraq war or who drew trenchant comparisons between the Vietnam combat valor of John Kerry and President Bush. Surely Bush is in trouble, and, in a close election, perhaps the military vote might swing the outcome as it did in Florida 2000, only this time for the Democrats. Even Kerry joined the bandwagon in the first presidential debate, citing individual military supporters he met on the campaign trail (the only voters Kerry mentioned that night).

We now have fairly compelling evidence, in the form of a Military Times survey of its readership (primarily career military officers and enlisted personnel), that reports of the demise of Bush’s popularity were premature. By an astonishing 72 to 17 percent margin, the active-duty military personnel who took the survey favored Bush over Kerry (Guard and Reserve respondents favored Bush, 73 to 18 percent). Frankly, the margin greatly exceeds anything that I or any other analyst had expected.

To be sure, the survey method is tilted in Bush’s favor, because it underrepresented the short-termers and junior enlisted personnel who would presumably be more Democratic (and thus more pro-Kerry). But the poll cannot be dismissed on technical grounds. The military is not captured in sufficient numbers by regular polls to say anything meaningful, and it is very difficult to reach the military in a targeted political survey. The Military Times readership is more reflective of career military people who at least entertain the idea of serving the 20 years needed to earn full retirement benefits, and previous surveys have established that this group tends to be more Republican. However, survey methods cannot account for a spread of 55 points. If the groundswell for Kerry claimed in earlier news reports was happening, it would have shown up here.

Despite an extraordinary effort to woo the military, then, the Democrats still have not overcome their traditional tone-deafness when it comes to civil-military relations. Kerry’s scorched-earth critique of the Iraq war may excite the base, but it alarms the military. The point is not that members of the military are blinded to mistakes or difficulties in Iraq. Rather, the point is that Kerry has unwittingly revived two specters that haunt the military.

The first is the ghost of Vietnam, which to the military (rightly or wrongly) means “fighting a war that domestic critics have made unpopular to the American public.” Kerry is long on critique and short on what he would do differently from, or even better than, Bush. What the troops probably hear most loudly is red-meat rhetoric like “grand diversion,” “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and other statements likely to undermine public resolve to see the war through to a successful conclusion.

The second ghost is President Bill Clinton as commander in chief, which to the military (rightly or wrongly) means an indecisive leader who wavers in response to shifting political winds. Kerry may believe that he has never changed his position on the Iraq war, but it is doubtful the military buys that spin.

Of course, the military vote is not large enough to decide the election except in the most extraordinary of circumstances, and then every other subgroup is decisive, too. Both campaigns, however, have been wooing the military not because the fighting forces matter on Election Day but for the symbolic value of their support for the campaigns as a whole. Put another way, the preelection news stories about growing military support for Kerry are far more valuable than the actual votes themselves.

Indeed, this is precisely why we should lament either side dragging the military into the middle of a partisan food fight, and why even conducting or commenting on such a poll is problematic. As mad as Bush supporters would be on Nov. 3 if Kerry wins, for most of them it will not be a life-or-death issue. Military people are professionals and will keep their pledge to be willing to risk their lives, even if they think the American people have made a huge mistake in the election.

So I worry about poll findings that show such a large tilt in favor of one candidate because they risk politicizing the military further, especially when it rebuts so decisively a central theme in one candidate’s marketing campaign. I worry also because of the reaction I have gotten from Democrats when informed of the poll results – there’s an abrupt shift midstream from crowing about how the military would turn on Bush this year to decrying the partisan Republican tilt of the military. The Democrats have wooed the military more ardently (though perhaps not more wisely) than ever before. Does the fury of a spurned suitor prepare someone to be a good commander in chief in wartime?

The writer is a professor of political science at Duke University and author of “Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations.”

This new polls essentially replicates the findings of the previous poll - within the margin of error of the previous poll’s number for Bush support, and just slightly better for Kerry:

http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com/ns/news/story.jsp?id=2004101511060001985334&dt=20041015110600&w=APO&coview=

Poll: GIs, Families Trust Bush Over Kerry

WASHINGTON (AP) - When asked who they would trust as commander in chief, people in military service and their families chose President Bush over Sen. John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, by almost a 3-to-1 margin.

Bush, who served in the Texas Air National Guard, was more trusted by 69 percent while 24 percent said they trusted Kerry more, according to the National Annenberg Election Survey released Friday.

Among all Americans, Bush has a more narrow advantage on trust to be commander in chief, 50-41.

The military sample was far more likely to be Republican than Democratic, which could help explain the more favorable view of the president. Four in 10, 43 percent, of the military sample said they were Republicans, while 19 percent said Democrats and 27 percent independents.

Those in the military and their families have a more favorable view of Bush than Americans generally, and they take a more optimistic view about Iraq, the economy and the nation’s direction.

A majority in the military sample, 64 percent, said the country is on the right track. Among Americans generally, 55 percent said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

The National Annenberg Election Survey found that seven in 10, 69 percent, had a favorable view of Bush. Only three in 10, 29 percent, had a favorable view of Kerry.

The Annenberg poll, which does not report head-to-head preferences, did not ask the military respondents who they support for president. The report cited a 1948 law that prohibits polling members of the military about their voting intent.

The poll of 655 in the active military and their families was taken Sept. 22-Oct. 5 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Their answers were compared to those of 2,436 adults surveyed between Sept. 7-Oct. 3 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.