US armed forces have struggled to meet recruiting goals in recent years, falling short of enlistment targets by thousands. Now, new polling shows Americans wouldn’t rush to join the military even if the country were at war.
The survey by the group Echelon Insights found that 72% of Americans would not be willing to volunteer to serve in the armed forces if the country entered a major conflict. Only 21% of people polled said they would join the US military under those circumstances.
The poll was conducted from October 23-26, two weeks after the Palestinian group Hamas mounted a surprise attack in Israel.
“We have strike groups, aircraft carriers with a Marine Expeditionary Unit outside Israel now,” said Justin Henderson, a US military recruiter.
“We’re funding two wars, but we’re actually boots on the ground, drones above Gaza. So we’re already involved in there – and we’re not sure what’s happening in Taiwan. So this is a very tumultuous time for us, because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The chronic ambivalence over military service in the US continues to impact recruiting, which could have consequences for overall preparedness according to experts.
“Let’s say the Navy misses recruiting targets for an extended period and wasn’t able to bring on the people that it needs to manage submarines and fly its airplanes… if you end up in a major conflict, it’s going to take time to train those people,” stated Tom Shugart, a fellow at the think tank Center for a New American Security.
Analysts say the state of the US economy makes recruiting difficult – during a period of low unemployment and rising wages, military service is seen as less appealing for young people. A certain degree of economic coercion is needed to meet enlistment targets.
“There’s definitely a strong relationship between [the] unemployment rate and how hard it is to recruit people,” added Shugart.
“When we’re in a recession and unemployment is high, then generally the military has very little trouble recruiting people [at] the numbers that it needs because people are looking for a job.”
“On the other hand, if the economy is really good and the employment market is really tight, and people have lots of options, sometimes the military has more trouble recruiting.”
Some recent public relations efforts have also fallen flat with detractors accusing the military of “going woke” with ad campaigns featuring drag queens and transgender servicepeople. Polling generally shows younger Americans are more socially liberal than previous generations, although one recent study suggested high school-age males are trending towards conservatism.
“Some parents will be turned off by those things and maybe not endorse military service as much,” stated David Eustice, the CEO of Military Recruiting Experts.
“It’s usually a little bit of a challenge to get parents to be for it anyway,” admitted Eustice.
“They’re supportive of their military but would prefer it to be someone else’s child.”
Eustice blamed “the civilian media looking from the outside in and making judgments and cherry picking stories to try to divide” for the declining appeal of the US military.
Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, movies and television programs have featured plotlines demonstrating the struggles of some service members to adapt to life outside the armed forces.
Some 24 veterans commit suicide each day in the United States, according to a recent study sponsored by the US Department of Defense and the University of Alabama.
Persistent recruiting shortfalls have reportedly contributed to a US Army that’s smaller in size than any time since 1940.
Some analysts claim the reputational problem is a result of failed messaging, but political cynicism in the United States may also be contributing to an overall lack of national self esteem. Approval of US Congress currently stands at 17%, according to recent polling.
Surveys have shown consistently high support in the country for progressive measures such as single-payer healthcare, but America’s political system continues to make such policy impossible.