By Leo Shane, III
WASHINGTON, DC — The latest Military Times poll shows a continued decline in active-duty service members’ views of President Donald Trump and a slight but significant preference for former Vice President Joe Biden in the upcoming November election among troops surveyed.
The results, collected before the political conventions earlier this month, appear to undercut claims from the president that his support among military members is strong thanks to big defense budget increases in recent years and promised moves to draw down troops from overseas conflict zones.
But the Military Times Polls, surveying active-duty troops in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, have seen a steady drop in troops’ opinion of the commander in chief since his election four years ago.
In the latest results — based on 1,018 active-duty troops surveyed in late July and early August — nearly half of respondents (49.9 percent) had an unfavorable view of the president, compared to about 38 percent who had a favorable view. Questions in the poll had a margin of error of up to 2 percent.
Among all survey participants, 42 percent said they “strongly” disapprove of Trump’s time in office.
The unfavorable number matches what an earlier Military Times Poll found in late 2019, while the favorable total slipped from just under 42 percent last year. In a poll conducted at the start of Trump’s presidency, 46 percent of troops had a favorable view of him, versus 37 percent who had an unfavorable opinion.
Still, the dipping popularity among troops — considered by Republican Party leaders to be part of the base of Trump’s support — could prove problematic for the president in the upcoming election.
Among active-duty service members surveyed in the poll, 41 percent said they would vote for Biden, the Democratic nominee, if the election was held today. Only 37 percent said they plan to vote to re-elect Trump.
Another 13 percent said they plan to vote for a third-party candidate, and nearly 9 percent said they plan on skipping the election altogether. About 40 percent of troops surveyed identified as Republican or Libertarian, 16 percent Democrats, and 44 percent independent or another party.
“It’s fair to say that Trump is not as popular as Republican nominees have been in the past among this group,” said Peter Feaver, a White House adviser to former President George W. Bush who now works as a political science professor at Duke University. “The bottom line is that in 2020, Trump can’t be claiming to have overwhelming support in the military.”