Saturday, July 29, 2017

Do You Know Your Military?

The unremediated challenge is that only 1% of the population is in the military; only 2% ever has been. During World War II, that number was 10%. Up through the 1970s, the draft ensured that very many people either had military experience or lived (or worked) closely with someone who had. Today, even though the military enjoys broad moral support, few people actually know anything about it. 

Warriors and Citizens:
American Views of Our Military,
Kori N. Schake and James Mattis, editors
(Hoover Institution Press, 2016)
The extensive pair of surveys by Schake and Mattis examined attitudes within the general population and contrasted them with samples from within the military. The 200 pages of numerical results provide a treasury of salient facts. One of the reasons for the disconnect between the military and civilians is that the person in your family most likely to have served in the military is your father (39%), all the moreso, if you are between the ages of 45 and 64 (52%).  The geopolitics of military spending put most of the largest bases in the South and West. As a result, youngsters leaving high school from Georgia, Texas, Missouri, and California are more likely to enlist in the military, with Massachusetts and Connecticut  statistically under-represented.

In all, these three comprehensive surveys reveal a deep, broad, and rich array of opinions across political affiliation, race, gender, and income.  They also query the military itself, separated by rank, combat experience, and other parameters.  Overall, very few majorities exist and most of those are slim, closer to 50% than to 60%.  The minority views are most revealing. 
Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American
Civil-Military Relations
by LTC Jason K. Dempsey
(Princeton University Press, 2009)
Citing Schake and Mattis, it would be easy to report that 36.7% of those who self-identify as “very liberal” believe that the military gets more respect than it deserves. However, without also reporting that 27.9% of those who self-identify as “very liberal” believe that the military gets less respect than it deserves, that would be an incomplete characterization of the “very liberal.”

Comparing the Citizenship and Service Survey (2004) designed by Jason K. Dempsey and the National Annenberg Election Survey (2004), revealed strong self-identified minorities of liberals among West Point cadets (20%) and serving Army lieutenants (24%).

Dissertation by Col. Heidi Urben
Online here.

Discussing politics at work is always problematic. For her doctoral dissertation, Civil-Military Relations in a Time of War,  at Georgetown (2010), Heidi K. Urben found that, broadly, senior officers (major and above) who self-identify as Republican tend to speak up and speak out at work.  Liberals and Democrats (about 27% of the junior officers and about 47% of the enlisteds) tend not to speak up at work. That allows the easy assumption that the Army is Republican. However, it appears that affiliation with the GOP is not as strong as perceptions suggest. Democrats and liberals are more likely to wear a political campaign button (in civilian clothes) and also have a bumper sticker and also attend a political meeting. A minority of Republicans might do one of those three, but not more than one.

Perhaps the single defining statistic revealed by Schake and Mattis and their team is that across all sectors of America, only the “elites” believe that the military should share the same values as society at large. Most people across the political spectrum believe that the military has a different value system than everyone else in America – and this is good. In particular, the “elites” hold that a liberal education is important to good citizenship.  Behind that statistical fact is the definition of who those “elites” are. Schake and Mattis created their lists from Who’s Who, and similar inventories of known and self-identified social leaders. And overall the attitudes of those elites, while skewed to the left, include the fact that 52% of them believe that the military gets less respect than it deserves.

Complete set of statistical tables from the book Warriors & Citizens
Schake and Mattis (1)
Schake and Mattis (2)

I work in a military office. Our commanding officer is leaving. He is a combat veteran who earned a master’s in anthropology from Texas A&M. His replacement is a Ranger who completed his bachelor’s in philosophy at Princeton.  Numbers hide individuals.


1 comment:

  1. Opened my eyes. Especially only 2%. I think my perception is from where I grew up - Virginia Beach and Olympia, WA.


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