A new survey conducted by the Military Times with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, finds that if the American presidential election was decided only be members of the armed forces either Republican nominee Donald Trump and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson would win. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton comes in at a distant third place, with only 16.3% of the troops’ support, while Trump and Johnson are nearly tied at 37.6% and 36.5% respectively.
The poll, conducted in September and consulting 2,200 enlisted personnel and military corps officers, reflected results collected in July, ahead of the Republican and Democratic conventions, which highlighted large-scale dissatisfaction with the candidacies of Trump and Clinton within the career force.
Johnson’s popularity is interesting, considering the nominee’s classically Libertarian views on military spending and foreign intervention. He has previously advocated for a 43% reduction in the former, and a pillar of his foreign policy would be to essentially end U.S. military intervention abroad. (This is something he shares in part with Donald Trump.)
Anti-interventionism is, somewhat counterintuitively, an understandable position for members of the military to hold. They would, after all, be at greatest immediate risk should the United States engage in military action on foreign soil.
But it remains confusing as to why military members would favor a candidate so unapologetically in favor of reducing military spending. Cutting more than a third of the military’s budget would surely mean a major reduction in troop size, forcing soldiers back into the American job market. And it goes without saying that a Libertarian administration isn’t likely to prioritize funding for government-run veteran job-placement programming.
It seems, more than anything, the rush to Johnson among military members is born out of a perceived dearth of pro-military major-party candidates. “These are the worst two candidates we could possibly have,” an anonymous military officer told the Military Times. “We deserve better as the American people and should expect better.”