Survey: Americans’ Trust in Military Remains Stable

Survey: Americans’ Trust in Military Remains Stable

Soldiers training
Photo by: U.S. Army/Calvin Reimold

Confidence in the military remains relatively stable, and Americans still support bolstered defense spending, according to a new survey from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

“This year’s survey reveals concerns that congressional budget cuts will lead to reduced military capabilities and support for increasing military spending on cutting-edge technologies,” the survey found. “Americans broadly recognize the need for boosting domestic manufacturing capacity to produce what is needed for our national defense.” 

The 2023 survey, which was conducted between Oct. 27 and Nov. 5 by a bipartisan survey team, included interviews of 2,506 American respondents. Its findings were released Dec. 1.

Compared to last year, Americans’ confidence in the military has declined slightly. This year, 46% of Americans reported “a great deal of confidence in the U.S. military,” which is down 2% since the last survey. Americans’ confidence has declined by almost 25% since 2018.

Despite this decline, the military remains the most trusted public institution in the U.S., ahead of the police and law enforcement, the president, the Supreme Court, news organizations and Congress, the survey found. 

Speaking at the Center for a New American Security in November, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said that while the all-volunteer force remains the best model for the U.S. military, it must ensure healthy civilian-military relations to keep the force strong.

“We must ensure that as a society, we are familiar with the military, with military families and what they do and the sacrifices that they make for the nation,” Hicks said. “For years, Americans’ trust and confidence in our institutions … has been on decline. The military remains one of our nation’s most trusted institutions, and we'd like to keep it that way.”

According to the survey, respondents previously indicated that “the growing politicization of military leadership” was behind the decline in their confidence. The most recent survey revealed that American trust in the military is divided across party lines. 

“This year’s survey found that a plurality of Republicans (38%) think that the military is too focused on social issues at the expense of focus on warfighting, while almost half of Democrats (47%) think the military is appropriately balancing focus on warfighting and social issues,” the survey found. 

Americans support a strong U.S. military presence across the world. “Our survey shows that Americans remain resolved … to support those defending freedom around the world,” Roger Zakheim, Washington director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, said in a press release. “In a time of increased global conflict, rather than backing away, Americans have shown their commitment to standing up against authoritarianism and bolstering U.S. global leadership.” 

The complete survey is available here.