Despite overwhelming support for President-elect Donald Trump among active-duty troops, one in four service members worries he may issue orders that violate military rules or traditions, according to a new Military Times/Institute for Military and Veterans Families Poll.
The responses, collected just after Trump's surprise election night victory, come amid uncertainty of what the one-time business mogul's Pentagon will look like, who will lead his national security strategy and whether he can fulfill his promises to boost military spending in coming years.
The poll surveyed 2,790 active-duty troops. Among those who voted, 51 percent said they supported Trump. Many expressed optimism at his election, predicting a stronger military and better quality of life for service members.
More than 60 percent said they think the new president will be able to work with Congress to find a solution to defense spending caps, and 56 percent said they believe Trump will improve troops’ pay and benefits.
In addition, 54 percent of troops surveyed believe Trump will be able to address the threat posed by Islamic State militants in the Middle East
But a sizable portion of the active-duty force expressed serious concerns about the election of the unconventional, controversial Republican nominee.
More than 27 percent said that having Trump as commander in chief will negatively affect their military job or mission. Among officers, 39 percent expressed those concerns. Among women, 55 percent worry their jobs will be adversely affected.
Trump's opponents — both Democrats and Republicans — raised similar concerns throughout the presidential campaign. In March, he had to walk back comments indicating he would tell U.S. troops to go after civilian family members of suspected terrorists and use torture to break uncooperative enemy prisoners. In a statement, he vowed that "I will not order a military officer to disobey the law."
In September, he hinted that he would dismiss or sideline generals that disagreed with his plans to combat terrorism, comments that upset critics.
One in five service members surveyed in the Military Times/IVMF poll — and 54 percent of troops who voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — said they are unlikely to re-enlist with Trump as commander in chief.
Few troops believe that Trump will be able to end the 15-year-old military mission in Afghanistan during his term in the White House. Only 28 percent think he can have success in that area, compare to 34 percent who answered "not at all."
Roughly 80 percent of troops surveyed said they voted in November’s election. Another 12 percent said they didn't because of various barriers to casting their ballot, while 8 percent said they made the decision not to participate.
Between Nov. 10 and 14, Military Times and IVMF conducted a voluntary, confidential online survey of U.S. service members. The questions focused on the nation's current political climate, the results of the 2016 presidential election and other relevant issues.
The survey received 2,790 responses from active-duty troops. A standard methodology was used by IVMF analysts to estimate the weights for each individual observation of the survey sample. The margin of error for most questions was less than 2 percent.
The survey audience was 86 percent male and 14 percent female, and had a mean age of 29.6 years old. The respondents identified themselves as 71 percent white, 14 percent Hispanic, 10 percent African American, 4 percent Asian and 9 percent other ethnicities. Respondents were able to select more than one race. Follow @LeoShane
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.