Trust in the US military has dropped so far that most Americans don?t have strong confidence in their armed forces, and the trend has accelerated since Joe Biden took office as commander-in-chief, the results of a new poll show.
The latest national defense survey by the Ronald Reagan Institute, released late last week, showed that just 45% of Americans have a "great deal" of trust and confidence in their military. The finding marked the first time that fewer than half of respondents to the survey have expressed strong trust in the troops.
Public confidence has tumbled 25 percentage points, from 70%, in the past three years. The rating has plunged 11 points in just the past nine months, under Biden, and the figures for other institutions are even lower. Only 19% of Americans polled had strong trust in the presidency as of November - down from 30% in February, the Reagan Institute survey showed. The same rating for law enforcement has dropped to 33% from 50% in the past three years, while media outlets have retained the confidence of just 10%, down from 16% in 2018.
Among those survey respondents who expressed little or no confidence in the US military, the most common reason cited was "political leadership," the institute said. Those who expressed strong confidence were most influenced by their high regard for rank-and-file servicemembers.
Just 42% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the military's ability to win an overseas war, the survey found. Similarly, 40% strongly trust that the military will act in a "professional and nonpolitical manner." Asked which country has the best military, 69% chose the US, while 17% picked China. Nearly one-third (32%) said the US uses the military in too many situations where diplomacy would be better.
The Pentagon has come under criticism this year for its alleged embrace of "anti-racism" ideology and for prioritizing social-justice initiatives, such as ending a ban on transgender troops, over fighting readiness. The Biden administration's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, in which 13 US service members were killed and hundreds of American citizens were left stranded in the Taliban-controlled country, triggered more public outrage.
The Reagan survey showed that 62% of Americans polled disapprove of how the Afghanistan exit was handled. Nearly half of respondents blamed Biden's poor judgment, while 20% cited poor military planning.
The poll also found diminishing support for "active global leadership" by the US. Just 42% believe America should be "more engaged and take the lead" in world affairs, down from 51% in February. More than one in four Americans (27%) want the military to reduce its presence overseas and only deploy troops in response to aggression.
China was overwhelmingly identified as the greatest foreign threat to the US, at 52%, up from just 21% three years ago. More than seven in 10 Americans (72%) polled said they believe that the Covid-19 virus leaked from a Chinese lab and that Beijing lied to cover it up. Fears over Russia have declined sharply, with 14% of those surveyed seeing it as the greatest threat, down from 30% in 2018.