CNN and other news outlets were horrified to see President Trump signing autographs for active-duty troops in Iraq and Germany, perhaps knowing that they could not denigrate these particular supporters the same way they can, say, criticize the people that show up to his rallies.
But if they had done any homework about the president’s popularity within the military community, they wouldn’t have been so surprised to see the troops show up with MAGA merchandise and giant smiles on their faces. Trump’s popularity may be hit-and-miss with the general voting public, but he enjoys a steady vein of support with veterans.
According to a new poll from AP VoteCast, nearly 60% of military voters voted for Republicans in the last election, and a similar number of vets retain positive views of the president’s leadership. Male veterans are much more likely to have a favorable view of Trump’s job performance than men who have never served in the military. 58% of male vets approve of Trump while only 46% of those who have never served feel the same way.
When it comes to women, however, the numbers are strikingly similar. 58% of female veterans disapprove of Trump; 61% of non-serving American women disapprove.
On specific issues having to do with national security, the gap between veterans and the average American population is even more pronounced. According to the poll, 62% of vets approve of the job Trump is doing when it comes to the border. Only 48% of those who have never served feel the same. 51% of vets say Trump is making the country safer from terrorism; 35% of non-serving voters feel that way.
The poll comes in the wake of one of Trump’s most military-focused weeks in some time. Not only did the president and his first lady travel abroad to visit the troops, Trump decided to pull 2,000 soldiers out of Syria in a controversial move that led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis. There is also talk that Trump will significantly reduce our military presence in Afghanistan. Both of these decisions are in line with the president’s promises on the campaign trail, where he often expressed skepticism about America’s role in foreign wars.
Whether these moves will resonate with the military community or not, time will tell. But they will certainly continue to be controversial stateside, where the gap between hawkish conservatism and Trump-style populism is exposed with every foreign policy decision.