Report Finds Veterans Still Held in High Esteem

Report Finds Veterans Still Held in High Esteem

Army vet with cadets
Photo by: U.S. Army/Ken Scar

Most Americans have a positive view of veterans, even as the services struggle with recruiting and overall public confidence in the military continues to decline, according to a new Rand Corp. report.

“Veterans have long been understood in symbolic terms: as model citizens, selfless heroes, or scarred survivors of war,” the report says. “These symbolic understandings, once institutionalized, can become mental scripts or stereotypes that shape perceptions, interactions, and even government policy.”

The report analyzed data from two 2022 American Life Panel surveys, which include over 6,000 respondents and are nationally representative, to better understand Americans’ perceptions about the U.S. military and veterans.

Respondents were asked if 13 attributes applied to veterans, including seven positive attributes and six negative attributes, among other questions, to assess their perception of veterans.

“Most respondents (approximately 50–80 percent, depending on the attribute) associate veterans with the positive traits of being self-disciplined, loyal, self-reliant, and responsible,” according to the report. “There is more-moderate belief—between 30 percent and 40 percent of respondents—that veterans are practical, effective communicators, or bold.”

Far fewer Americans associate negative attributes with veterans. “When it comes to negative stereotypes, 20 percent of respondents consider veterans to be aggressive,” the report found. “Less than 10 percent of respondents agreed with the negative traits of being volatile, cold, uncompassionate, unsociable, or unethical.”

Results were similarly positive when respondents were asked to rank how veterans fell across 10 different dichotomies, like villain or hero, among others, the report found.

While Americans’ feelings concerning veterans are overwhelmingly positive, they are not necessarily homogenous. “These statistics might mask differences in stereotype endorsement among different subgroups in the respondent population,” the report found. “Views of veterans plausibly differ by sex, age, race/ ethnicity, region of the country, political ideology, or personal connections to the military.”

Americans consider veterans to be hardworking, and they expressed concern about the likelihood of self-harm among veterans. “Approximately two-thirds of the public views veterans as more reliable and more hardworking than the rest of society,” the report found. “But more than 40 percent also think it is likely that a veteran would do something violent toward themselves.”

Read the full report here.