Survey: Veterans more supportive than other Americans of Trump’s national security decisions

U.S. President Donald Trump, shown during a signing ceremony for the Taxpayer First Act in the Oval Office of the White House on July 1, 2019, tweeted on July 3, 2019, that the administration will continue to pursue a citizenship question on the census.


By NIKKI WENTLING | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 10, 2019

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, who often has struggled with low approval ratings, has more support from veterans than other Americans when it comes to his national security decisions, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Veterans are more approving than other Americans regarding Trump’s actions at the U.S.-Mexico border, his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear weapons deal, the ban on transgender people entering the military, his dealings with Russia and his idea to create a new branch of the military called the Space Force.

The findings come from a report released Wednesday by Pew, a nonpartisan think tank, which surveyed a sample of 1,284 veterans and 1,087 other adults in May and June and compared their answers. The think tank drew participants from a panel of randomly selected adults who are representative of the U.S. in terms of age, gender, education, income and geographic region.

About Trump’s overall performance, a majority of veterans approve of the way that he’s handling the duties of commander in chief and about half said his policies have made the military stronger — more positive responses than responses from the general public.

As with Americans overall, there are deep partisan divides among veterans.

In part, Pew attributes the gap in views to the fact that veterans are more likely to identify with the Republican Party. Nearly 60% of veterans identify with the GOP, compared with 44% of other Americans, Pew said.

However, Pew found that even within the GOP, veterans are more supportive of Trump’s decisions than other Republicans.

“Even after taking these partisan differences into account, veterans stand out from the public in some instances, with Republican veterans particularly enthusiastic about the president’s leadership on military issues,” the report reads.

For instance, while 81% of nonveteran Republicans said they approved of how Trump is handling the role of commander in chief, 92% of Republican veterans do.

There’s also a gap between Republican veterans and other Republicans on the issue of the Trump administration’s ban on transgender servicemembers — 78% of veterans approve of it versus 57% of Republicans overall. On Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, 82% of veterans approved, compared with 65% of other Republicans.

Despite their support, about half of Republican and Democratic veterans said Trump doesn’t listen enough to military leaders when making national security decisions.

“A similar share say they have little trust in him to make the right decisions about the use of military force,” the report reads.

Democrats were far less supportive of Trump’s national security decisions and his overall performance. Just 6% of veterans who identify as Democrats said they approved of the way that Trump was handling the role of commander in chief, and 8% of other Democrats did.

The partisan divide mirrors views from veterans during former President Barack Obama’s administration. A Pew report from 2011 found 77% of Democratic veterans approved of Obama as commander in chief, while 81% of Republicans disapproved.

According to a poll this week from ABC News and the Washington Post, Trump’s approval rating has reached the highest point of his presidency as the 2020 election campaign intensifies. The poll found 44% of Americans approve of the job that he’s doing.

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