In a Military Embracing Social Change, Troops Increasingly Identify as Independent and Libertarian
Shifts in social attitudes, politics, and attitudes toward government are seeping from the civilian world into the U.S. military. The military is quickly adapting to increased tolerance toward gays and lesbians in American life, expanding roles for women, and growing distaste for the established political parties and the performance of the U.S. government. And, like many Americans, soldiers, sailors, and marines are drifting away from the major parties, increasingly identifying themseves as independents and libertarians.
A survey of active-duty armed forces personnel among the readership of Military Times finds that support for gays and lesbians openly serving in the military rose from 35 percent in 2009 to 60 percent in 2014. Overt disapproval fell from 49 percent to 19 percent in the same time.
Support for opening at least some combat-arms jobs to women rose from 34 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in 2014, with opposition falling from 43 percent to 28 percent.
So military personnel match civilians in their increasing social tolerance and embrace of expanding opportunities for everybody. Honestly, why wouldn't they when they're recruited from the same population?
Likewise, the troops match their friends and relatives in growing disgust with the way the government handles its responsibilities. The country at large has presidential approval underwater and opinions of Congress sunk somewhere in the Mariana Trench. Military personnel, who generally think they're underpaid, undersupplied, and underappreciated say that neither major party has their best interests in mind. Approval in the ranks for President Obama plummeted from a weak 35 percent in 2009 to 15 percent this year.
And like other Americans, military personnel look for alternatives elsewhere. A generally conservative bunch, Democrats and liberals make up only about 8 percent of the poll respondents. But support for the Republican is hemmorrhaging away, with members of the armed forces increasingly identifying as independents and libertarians.
As Brian Doherty noted in 2012, the libertarianization of the military began several years ago. At the time, Ron Paul had raised from active-duty servicemembers and Pentagon employees more than four times the combined take of the other three Republican presidential candidates. President Obama had better fundraising luck than the other Republican candidates—taking in a bit less than half of what Paul managed.
If I remember right, a couple of Reason luminaries have written something or other about the growing independent strain (and role of libertarian ideas) in American life.