A new poll shows that most Americans lack confidence that the U.S. military will be able to thwart China, which they see as the nation’s most pressing threat.
Only 45% of Americans have a “great deal of trust and confidence” in the military, according to the poll released Wednesday by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. The figure marks a decline from 70% over the last three years and crosses all major demographic subgroups including age, sex and party affiliation.
The nation’s confidence in the military dropped 11 percentage points since the start of the Biden administration, according to the survey.
The pollsters said the survey’s results are based on a “general negative sense” in the country rather than a specific reason, although political leadership tops the list.
“When President Reagan first took office, Americans were concerned that we were falling behind our adversaries abroad and pessimistic about the situation at home. This survey tells us they feel similarly today,” Reagan Institute Director Roger Sakheim said in a statement.
Only a third of adults under the age of 30 have high confidence in the military, which could pose problems with recruiting in the future, according to the survey.
The majority of Americans still support a strong U.S. military presence abroad, with 65% saying the country should continue to maintain bases around the world to deter attacks and respond quickly to threats.
The survey indicated a national consensus that Beijing poses the greatest threat to the United States. While Pentagon leaders have consistently labeled China as a “challenge,” the American people see the country in a more negative light. They are concerned about China’s military buildup, technological advances, economic practices and human rights abuses.
“This is the first time a single adversary has captured a majority of respondents’ concerns since the survey began,” the pollsters said.
The survey also illustrates the country’s complex views on Afghanistan after 20 years of war there. Almost 60% said the war was a failure, up almost 10 percentage points since February. About 40% said President Biden’s order to withdraw U.S. forces weakens the United States, and 35% said it didn’t make much of a difference.
The survey reflected what pollsters said was a “growing ambivalence” about America’s role in the world. Just over 40% said the U.S. should be more engaged and take an active role in global leadership.