Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, pose for a photo before debating at the University of New Hampshire Thursday in Durham, N.H.
Photo Credit: Jim Cole/AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Spokane, Wash., on May 7, 2016.
Photo Credit: Ted S. Warren/AP
Trump stands as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, following the exit of his two remaining top party rivals in the last week. But numerous high-profile party leaders — including House Speaker Paul Ryan and the last three GOP presidential nominees — have declined to endorse him, citing concerns about his temperament and policy plans.
Meanwhile, Sanders has vowed to fight the Democratic primary contest all the way to the party convention in late July. Clinton, who by the end of the primary season appears likely to reach the number of delegates required to get her party's nomination, has begun shifting her campaign focus to Trump, attacking his thin national security résumé and lack of support among Republican Party leaders.
Democrats overwhelmingly favored Clinton (72 percent to 8 percent) and Republicans overwhelmingly supported Trump (82 percent to 6 percent). Troops who identified as independents slightly favored Trump, by a 40 percent to 32 percent margin.
Officers were more likely to back Clinton than enlisted troops, though the officers still favored Trump by a 46 percent to 32 percent tally. Enlisted respondents broke 58 percent to 21 percent for Trump.
The same held for Sanders, where he outpaced Trump's support by a 45 percent to 43 percent margin among Navy members. Among the services, Marines were the most likely to support Trump (60 percent said they'd vote for him) while sailors were the most likely to support Clinton (31 percent said they would vote for her).
The survey began the day of the Indiana primary, before Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential contest, and remained open until later that week. Military members surveyed backed Cruz over Clinton and Sanders, as well, though not by as large of a margin as Trump.
In all of the hypothetical matchups presented, at least 11 percent of military members said they would not vote if given only the two major party choices. In the case of a Clinton/Cruz contest, 25 percent said they would skip voting rather than back either candidate.
In anecdotal comments connected to the survey, several survey respondents called the options for president frustrating and disappointing:
- "Weakest field of my adult life."
- "Absolutely disgusted by this election cycle."
- "It’s a lose/lose situation no matter what."
- "They all suck."
Dozens also noted plans to vote for a third-party candidate, citing their dissatisfaction with the major party choices.
"The candidates left just don't understand the military," said Army Capt. Christian Pardo, who said he would not vote for any of the major party candidates left. "The military perspective on some of their policies are just so far out there."
Pardo said he wishes a candidate with military experience was still left in the race. He'll be considering third-party candidates in the fall, "but if none appeal to me, I may just stay home."
Air Force 1st Lt. Tyler Livingston said he'll probably do the same, especially if it's a Trump/Clinton contest.
"I really don't understand how a better candidate didn't jump into the race," he said. "I was hoping we see something else."
Our methodology How the survey was conducted
Between May 3 and May 6, Military Times conducted a voluntary, confidential survey of subscribers who include verified active-duty, National Guard and reserve component service members. More than 59,000 subscribers received e-mail invitations to participate. In total, 951 respondents completed the survey.
The sample is not a perfect representation of the military as a whole; it over-represents officers and noncommissioned officers, and under-represents junior enlisted personnel. However, it is representative of the more senior and career-oriented members of the force who run the military's day-to-day operations and carry out its policies.
The voluntary nature of this survey, the dependence on email and the characteristics of Military Times readers may affect the results. Statistical margins of error commonly reported in opinion polls that use random sampling can't be calculated for this survey.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
George Altman covers military transition issues, education and post-separation employment and entrepreneurship for Military Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.