On Armed Forces Day, celebrated this weekend, American troops and their leaders can take pride in the high level of support they receive from the American public, 84% of whom said they held a favorable view of the nation’s military, despite the general unpopularity of the war in Iraq in which they are engaged; this is in sharp contrast to the Vietnam period when the unpopularity of the war carried over into relatively low public ratings of the military. In the decades following Vietnam, strongly positive attitudes toward the military were a rarity. Pew/Times Mirror surveys found “very favorable” attitudes toward the military ranging in the neighborhood of 20% in the late 1980s, jumping briefly to 60% in the aftermath of the short and successful Persian Gulf War, and then retreating into the 20%-30% range until the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centers in September 2001. In July 2001, before the 9-11 terrorist attacks, a Pew survey found 29% of Americans expressing a very favorable view of the U.S. military although an additional 52% said they had a mostly favorable view. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.