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Army Times January 5, 2004 Pg. 15

Military Times Poll

Today's Military: Right, Republican And Principled

By Gordon Trowbridge, Times Staff Writer

Who do you think has higher moral values? Members of the U.S. military -- 66%, U.S. civilians -- 2%, Both have about the same standard -- 31%

The 2003 Military Times Poll reveals a military more conservative, more Republican, and one that considers itself to be morally superior to the nation its serves.

The figures add fuel to a debate, ongoing since at least the end of the Vietnam War, over whether there is a gap in attitudes between America and its military and whether that is a cause for concern. Especially troubling, some observers say, are indications that military members do not believe the nation's civilian leadership has their best interests at heart.

The poll found:

*About half described their political views as conservative or very conservative; four in 10 called themselves moderate; and only 7 percent called themselves liberal.

*More than half called themselves Republicans, and just 13 percent said they are Democrats. Recent polls of the general public show the nation evenly split, with Democrats, Republicans and independents making up about a third of the population each.

*Two-thirds said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve. More than 60 percent called the country's moral standards only fair or poor.

In follow-up interviews, service members repeatedly said the choice to serve, by itself, demonstrates moral quality above most civilians. Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality.

"Even if you don't have it when you enlist, they breed it into you to be a better person," said Army Sgt. Kevin Blanchard, a cavalry scout with 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. "When you go home you see how you're different than the people you grew up with."

Many also mentioned what they considered an increase in sex and vulgarity in popular media.

*Respondents were evenly split on the question of whether civilian leaders have their best interests at heart.

To some observers, the figures are yet more evidence of a troubling divide between the military and civilian society.

"The country and the military profession are best served by an officer corps that is apolitical," said Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and professor of international relations at Boston University. "That doesn't mean that officers don't vote, but for them to collectively identify themselves with one or the other party strikes me as simply unhealthy."

University of North Carolina professor Richard Kohn co-authored a 1999 study on the civilian-military gap issued by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies.

That study, which surveyed thousands of students at staff colleges, also found a military sharply more Republican and conservative than the nation, and one at odds with civilian leaders on a host of issues.

"The alienation from the 1990s continues, and was not simply based on hatred of Bill Clinton or distrust of the Democrats, as some argued about our results," Kohn said in an e-mail interview. "It's endemic to the highly professionalized, all-volunteer military of the last generation."

-- Anonymous, December 30, 2003

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