A graduation ceremony is being held today at the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry in Camp Geiger, N.C. for three enlisted women who are the first to complete the corps so-called “grunt” course. In January, the Pentagon lifted a longstanding ban on women in combat roles, and the performance of female service members in settings like the Marine Corps course is part of a still-ongoing evaluation about whether to integrate them into infantry units.

Pfcs. Katie Gorz, Julia Carroll, Christina Fuentes Montenegro have become the first entry-level enlisted women to complete the Marine Corps’ infantry training. (Credit: U. S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Tyler L. Main and CWO2 Paul S. Mancuso)

A Pew Research Center poll conducted shortly after the lifting of the combat ban found broad public support for the action. Two-thirds of Americans supported allowing women in the military to serve in ground units that engage in close combat, while just 26% were opposed.

Most Americans (58%) said that the policy shift would improve opportunities for women in the military.

While the debate over women in combat has centered in part on how it would affect military effectiveness, only 15% of those surveyed believed it would make it worse. About half (49%) said including women in combat units would not make a difference to military effectiveness, and 29% said it would improve effectiveness.

Democrats and Republicans had differing views on the question of military effectiveness. Far more Democrats say the change will improve military effectiveness (38%) than worsen it (7%); 52% say it will not make much difference. By contrast, more Republicans say women in combat roles will have a negative effect on military effectiveness (29%) than make it better (20%); 41% say things will not be much different.

Among households where someone has served in the military, 44% said the inclusion of women in combat rolls would not make a difference to effectiveness. About a quarter (26%) said it would improve effectiveness while 22% said it would make it worse.

Bruce Drake  is a former senior editor at Pew Research Center.