Election 2016

Gary Johnson and Donald Trump Tied For Lead in New Military Poll

Libertarian, Republican candidates within the margin of error among U.S. military personnel; Hillary Clinton trails by more than 20 percentage points.


The military likes the Libertarian
Flickr/Gage Skidmore

A newly released poll conducted earlier this month by Military Times and Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families shows a dead heat between Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and Republican Donald Trump among U.S. military personnel.

The poll—which Military Times calls "the first scientific breakdown of voting preferences among service members"—has Trump at 37.5 percent, Johnson at 36.5 percent, and Hillary Clinton at 16.3 percent. Green Party nominee Jill Stein got 1.2 percent, while other options collectively received 3.2 percent. The margin of error was 2 percent, putting Trump and Johnson in a virtual tie.

Interestingly, among the officer corps, Johnson is the clear favorite, with 38.6 percent support. Clinton's standing with the military improves among the higher ranks, where she polled 28 percent to Trump's 26 percent.

Over 2,200 active duty troops participated in the survey, which also included retired military and family members of military members. But because of restrictions on active service-people from taking public positions on electoral politics, no identifying information was required to take the survey. However, in an email to Reason, Military Times' reporter George Altman explained that 83 percent of "the active duty respondents to this poll came from the Military Times active duty subscriber email list," where respondents' active duty status had been previously verified by a third party verification service.

The week-long survey began the same day as Gary Johnson's infamous "What is Aleppo?" gaffe, but it appears to not have harmed his standing among the military, many of whom expressed profound disgust with the two major party candidates. According to the poll's analysis, 85 percent are "dissatisfied with Clinton"—though 35 percent of those plan to vote for the Democrat anyway—and 66 percent are "dissatisfied with Trump"—though 21 percent of those intend to vote Republican.

Military Times quotes an Army captain as saying, "These are the worst two [major party] candidates we could possibly have." An Army sergeant reportedly responded to the survey by writing, "We're all doomed to have a president that the majority of the nation disapproves of, one way or another."

Johnson has polled well among the military in other "unscientific" polls, and a particularly vocal group of his supporters were none too pleased that he was not invited to participate in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)'s NBC-televised Commander in Chief forum two weeks ago. IAVA says they have invited Johnson to speak at a separate televised forum, but no date as been announced.

The last Military Times poll, conducted in July, had Trump receiving 49 percent of the military vote, Clinton getting 21 percent, with Johnson a distant third at 13 percent. It seems that Johnson's increased media exposure over the past two months has been a boon to his support among the military.

It's worth noting that only about one percent of eligible voters are active duty military, but two swing states in particular—Virginia and Florida—are home to numerous military bases, and thus have a substantially larger than average number of military members among their voting rolls.