More veterans approve of President Donald Trump’s performance as commander in chief than dislike his tenure so far, but many still worry he does not listen enough to military leadership for advice, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center released Wednesday.
In a survey of nearly 1,300 veterans conducted in May and June, 57 percent of respondents said they approve of how Trump is leading the armed forces. In contrast, about 41 percent said they disapprove of how he has handled running the military.
The numbers are the mirror image of the overall American public. In a separate, non-veterans poll from Pew Research (a nonpartisan polling and analysis group) conducted over the same time frame, 57 percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of Trump’s work as commander in chief, and 41 percent said they approve.
Those findings echo results from a Military Times poll last fall which showed stronger support for Trump among active-duty troops than the public at large.
Almost 60 percent of service members in that survey believed the military was in stronger shape with Trump as its leader than under President Barack Obama. But the overall assessment of Trump as president was evenly split, with 44 percent of troops holding a favorable view of his work and 43 percent expressing a negative opinion.
In the Pew Research poll, the largest factor influencing veterans’ opinions of Trump appears to be their political affiliation. Among Republican veterans, 92 percent approved of his work overseeing the military. Among Democratic veterans, 93 percent disapproved of his leadership.
According to exit polls in the 2016 election, nearly twice as many veterans voted for Trump than for his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Past polls have shown that veterans as a group tend to identify more often with the Republican Party and vote for more conservative candidates.
Veterans in the recent survey were more divided over whether Trump places enough trust in military leadership when making national security decisions. Half said he relies on military leaders an appropriate amount, but 45 percent said he does not listen to their advice enough.
Three in 10 veterans said they do not trust the president to make the right decision on the use of nuclear weapons, while 36 percent said they trust him “a great deal” with that responsibility.
A majority also backed his positions on sending active-duty troops to the southern U.S. border (58 percent), withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal (53 percent), and banning transgender troops from entering the military (52 percent). None of those policy decisions received backing from a majority of the general public.
However, Trump’s plans for a new stand-alone Space Force within the military did not receive the same support, with 53 percent of veterans opposed to the idea and 45 percent in favor of the change.
Nearly two-thirds of veterans polled by Pew Research said they believe Trump respects veterans. Almost 40 percent said that they think military spending should be increased, while 43 percent said it should remain at current levels. Less than one-fifth of veterans surveyed want to see it decreased.
Full poll results are available on the center’s website.
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.