During a decade of sustained warfare after 9/11, only about 0.5% of the American public has been on active duty at any given time. By comparison, the comparable figure was nearly 9% at the height of World War II.

A Pew Research center survey that studied this military-civilian gap found that 84% of modern-era veterans say the American public has little or no understanding of the problems that those in the military face. The public shares in that assessment, albeit by a less lopsided majority (71%) and so do veterans of pre-9/11 wars (76%).

A separate report based on this survey noted that as the size of the military shrinks in the years following the phase-out of the draft in 1973, “the connections between military personnel and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant.”

While more than three-quarters (77%) of adults ages 50 and older said they had an immediate family member — a spouse, parent, sibling or child — who had served in the military, adults under the age of 50 now are much less likely to have family members who served in the military. Some 57% of those ages 30-49 say they have an immediate family member who served. And among those ages 18-29, the share is only one-third. Read More

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