Active-duty US troops more likely to vote Biden instead of Trump - poll

Nearly half (49.9%) of said respondents shared that they hold "unfavorable" views of Trump, compared to the 38% who have "favorable" views of the president and his administration.

U.S. soldiers are seen during a handover ceremony of Taji military base from US-led coalition troops to Iraqi security forces, in the base north of Baghdad, Iraq August 23, 2020. (photo credit: THAIER AL-SUDANI/REUTERS)
U.S. soldiers are seen during a handover ceremony of Taji military base from US-led coalition troops to Iraqi security forces, in the base north of Baghdad, Iraq August 23, 2020.
A majority of active-duty US service members claim that they intend vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden over US President Donald Trump in the upcoming general election this November, according to a recent poll published in Military Times.
The survey sample of 1,018 active-duty US troops, interviewed from late July to early August, revealed that 41.3% of service members would vote for Joe Biden if elections were held today, compared to the 37.4% in support of Trump's re-election. Around 9% said that they plan to skip the election altogether.
Nearly half (49.9%) of said respondents shared that they hold "unfavorable" views of Trump, compared to the 38% who have "favorable" views of the president and his administration.
Some 42% noted they "strongly disapprove" of Trump's tenure as president, which diminishes claims by Trump that his support among active and former service members - a typically Republican leaning bloc of voters - is and remains strong, noting the defense budget increase and the president's pledge to pull US troops out of overseas conflict zones with his "America first" approach.
"It’s fair to say that Trump is not as popular as Republican nominees have been in the past among this group," said White House adviser to former President George W. Bush and political science professor at Duke University Peter Feaver. "The bottom line is that in 2020, Trump can’t be claiming to have overwhelming support in the military."
Director of applied research at IVMF Rosalinda Maury noted, however, that the poll is not perfect, considering the average age of the sample size was 39 (an age range that likely holds differing views from junior service members), respondents were selected from the Military Times' subscriber lists and databases (meaning many active-duty members could have been overlooked within the sample), around 93% of respondents were male and additionally - considering the survey was voluntary - it is subjected to self-selection bias.
She additionally noted that this poll serves as a reminder that the military is made up of people with all different types of perspectives, and does not serve or hold a single collective opinion.
"We do see consistencies from poll to poll, aspects of national security that may be more of a focus for a military audience," Maury said. "But the military is not a homogenous population. You do see a variety of opinions, especially within subsets of the military."
"But the president claims he has been good for the military, that they’re grateful that he has rescued them from the shambles. This shows that’s not the case with all of the military."
Among officers and lower ranking military members, however, the disparages are clear. More than 59% of officers hold unfavorable views of the president - more than half strongly disapprove of him. Some 47% of the lower-ranking military members hold negative views of Trump, while nearly 39% rate him favorably.
Feaver notes that this could be a cause of "officers’ predisposition to long-term military careers," and possibly due to the negative comments Trump has spouted in the direction of other "career federal positions."
“The military tends to follow broad shifts in the opinion of the American public, albeit trending more conservative,” Feaver said, noting a recent Gallup poll that revealed 55% of Americans rate the president unfavorably. “So as the country moves away from Trump, you’ll see that in the military too.”
In comparison to their overall views of the president, many active-duty service members held favorable positions (48%) with regard to Trump's handling of military issues - such as reducing the amount of troops active in conflict zones abroad, as well as increasing the defense budget to include raises for all service members.
“Unlike previous administrations I have kept America out of new wars, and our troops are coming home,” he said during his RNC address, according to the Washington Times. “We have spent nearly $2.5 trillion on completely rebuilding our military, which was very badly depleted when I took office, as you know. This includes three separate pay raises for our great warriors.”
Still, reports about US intelligence findings that Russia paid the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan emerged in late June. Russia denied the reports, with Trump making it clear that he did not believe them, put the president in hot water with active-duty service members.
Democrats and other critics - in addition to the military - have accused Trump, who has long pushed warmer US ties with Russia, of not taking intelligence information concerning soldiers' deaths seriously enough.
Some 47% of respondents disagreed with Trump's handling of intelligence findings.
Additionally, as tensions mount in cities across America, with protesters demanding reforms of police practices they view as racist and abusive, frequent clashes with law enforcement and on occasion with counter-protesters associated with right-wing militia groups - unfortunately bringing about multiple fatal shootings in recent days - Trump suggested active-duty military personnel should be used to police the streets instead of regular law enforcement - a statement many military members did not take lightly, considering the role they signed up for does not reflect the notion of policing or harming American citizens.
Some 74% of respondents categorically disagreed with the president's suggestion.
However, in line with the creed of the National Guard and the responsibility they were given as guardsmen tasked with protecting the American public - being members of the Organized Militia of the United States - half of the survey respondents support the use of the National Guard to quell unruly protests.
While the policy disagreements may be clear, Feaver notes that they “do not necessarily show that troops are beginning to think more like Democrats, but instead that they aren’t thinking like Trump Republicans," adding that the support for Biden may be more due dissatisfaction rather than a political shift in the military - while noting that the poll numbers among the military are "surprising."
Surprising considering that in 2016, the Military Times released a poll that showed active-duty service members were twice as likely to vote for Trump than the Democratic nominee at the time Hilary Clinton. Exit polls stayed in line with pre-election poll.
Similar numbers also arose during the 2012 elections, where respondents favored Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at a ration of 2.5 :1.
It's well known that polls are not accurate depictions or the "be all end all" of how elections or policies typically pan out. For example, in the 2016 Military Times poll, around 34% of veterans and active service members said they planned to vote for a third-party candidate, while exit polls revealed that only 5% did so. The 2020 Military Times poll had a margin of error of up to 2%.