The number of military servicemembers self-identifying as Republicans is up slightly from last year’s 41.49 percent to 43.8 percent. But that number is still down more than 10 percent from 2005, when 56 percent of active duty service personnel identified as members of the GOP, according to the Military Times’ annual poll.
The military is also less conservative than it was seven years ago.
In 2005, a total of 50 percent of respondents described themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative.” The next year that number fell to 44 percent. And in 2012 it hit 42.72 percent, making it slightly more popular than the next most popular group, “moderate,” at 41.54 percent.
Seven years ago, only 33 percent identified themselves as moderate.
The Washington Times’ Shaun Waterman looked at these numbers and suggests that the changes reflect the growth of the Tea Party, which includes some politicians like Rand Paul (R-KY), whose point of view is much less interventionist than Bush-era Republicans. Republicans in Congress have adopted the Tea Party’s willingness to cut defense spending by keeping the sequester cuts in place, even though they hit the military hard.
However, hardline hawks like senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) still play a huge role in shaping the party’s stands on national security issues.
The number of libertarians in the military has more than doubled from 2 percent in 2005 to 5.43 percent in 2012, but there’s nothing “Tea Party” about the growth of moderates.
The steady decline of members of the military identifying as Republican and conservative since 2005 likely reflects some movement toward isolationism. But it likely has more to do with the decline of the right’s historic advantage on national security. This edge began to deteriorate as the war in Iraq turned into a disaster and the progress made against the Taliban in Afghanistan was allowed to wither away.
A majority, 51.14 percent, disapprove of President Obama’s performance as president (while only 44.3 percent disapprove of how he’s handling his role as commander in chief), but in 2012 the president received almost double the amount of military donations that his opponent Mitt Romney took in.
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