Sep 30, 2021
Trends of declining U.S. military recruitment and weakening public confidence in the military institution raise important and pressing questions about public perceptions of the military and uniformed service. This report details public perceptions of veterans and the military and public willingness to encourage a young person to join the military as identified in American Life Panel surveys administered in February and June 2022.
Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey
Published Dec 14, 2023
Fiscal year 2022 was one of the worst U.S. military recruitment years on record, with all services apart from the Space Force failing to meet recruitment goals, and fiscal year 2023 saw similar shortfalls. The U.S. public's overall confidence in the military is likewise declining. Although the public still holds the military generally in high esteem compared with other major institutions, that esteem is wavering, influenced by such factors as the end of the war in Afghanistan, the increased polarization of the public, and heightened politicization of the military.
How do these trends in recruitment and confidence reflect public perceptions of the U.S. military? Do public perceptions of veterans and the U.S. military influence young people's decisions to join the military? RAND researchers examined a selection of findings from 2022 American Life Panel surveys to gather insights into how Americans think about these issues. The researchers found that the public thinks very highly of U.S. veterans, endorsing positive stereotypes about veterans at a high rate and endorsing negative stereotypes at a very low rate. However, a majority of Americans would discourage a young person close to them from enlisting.