Grand Army of the Republic or Grand Army of the Republicans? Political Party and Ideological Preferences of American Enlisted Personnel
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While much research has been conducted into the political behavior and attitudes of American military officers, little has been accomplished with respect to enlisted personnel. Most reports assume that the American military identify largely with the Republican Party and are mostly conservative in attitude. The most recent large-scale study, the TISS Survey on the Military in the Post Cold War Era conducted by Feaver and Kohn in 1998-1999, confirmed those assumptions among senior officers and is often quoted as representative of the entire military. However, the demographic characteristics of enlisted personnel predict different behavior. The enlisted ranks of the American military are over-represented by minorities who traditionally identify with the Democratic Party. The present study gathered data on enlisted personnel, by means of a survey, to determine whether that specialized population is significantly different in attitude and behavior from that of the officer corps and of the general American population. Enlisted personnel identify with the Republican Party in about the same proportion as do the general American population. However, only about half as many enlisted personnel identify with the Democratic Party as do civilians. Enlisted personnel are also about three times more likely to identify as Independents as do other Americans.
Active-duty enlisted personnel demonstrate a 1.7 to 1 partisan (Republican to Democrat) ratio, similar to that found in the veteran enlisted sample (1.8 to 1) and the officer sample (1.6 to 1). The civilian sample shows a .95 to 1 partisan ratio. Thus, active-duty enlisted personnel who identify with a political party are about twice as likely to identify with the Republican Party as are civilians. However, active-duty enlisted personnel are nearly four times as likely as civilians to report being Independent, and are substantially less likely than civilians to identify with the Democratic Party. The Republican to Democrat ratio may well explain the commentary about and observations of a Republican dominated military. Despite the fact that the overall proportion of Republicans within the military is no greater than that found within the general population, that there are twice as many individuals who will state that they are Republicans as those who will state that they are Democrats can easily give the impression of a heavily Republican population. However, active-duty enlisted personnel remain strongly independent when compared to the civilian population. Of special note is a markedly higher political efficacy among military enlisted personnel than is found within the general American population.