Edition


Vol. 55, No. 5

In this edition

For the third year in a row, The Ripon Forum is dedicating an entire edition to the Veterans Day holiday and those brave men and women who risked their lives in defense of America.   

VA Update: Our Work for Veterans is Never Done

Our country made a binding pact with our servicemembers. Upholding our end of the bargain is a moral obligation.

Equipping Our Veterans for the Next Season of Service

Too many of these servicemembers struggle to have their talents fully understood and utilized amidst transitioning back to civilian life.

Burn Pits Cannot be the Next Agent Orange

Otherwise-healthy veterans are suffering from uncommon cancers that may be result of exposure to open-air burn pits. The time for action is now.

“You kept us safe. You did your duty.”

Members of the United States military have done more to liberate humankind from oppression and tyranny … than any other force in human history.

“We honor veterans’ service and sacrifice for this great nation.”

There is something incredibly unique about those who sacrifice so much to serve our country – who choose to run towards conflict in the name of freedom.

“There is no greater calling than service to country”

There is no greater calling than service to one’s nation. And if there’s one thing veterans understand, it is that service never stops.

“We remember and honor the sacrifices, both large and small.”

At one point in every veteran’s life, they made the tough decision to leave behind the comforts of home to fight for a cause bigger than themselves.

More Needs to Be Done to Meet the Mental Health Challenges Facing Veterans

Transitioning from active duty brings many challenges and mental health stressors.

How Veterans View the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Like the public, they are deeply divided along party lines.

We Said We’d Never Forget: Will We?

For the first time in 20 years, we celebrate Veterans Day in relative peace.

How Veterans View the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Like the public, they are deeply divided along party lines 

In the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pew Research Center looked at how military veterans were feeling about the decision to pull all troops out of that country, how they assessed Joe Biden’s handling of the situation and how they felt more broadly about Biden’s approach to foreign policy. 

What we found was that veterans’ views on the decision to withdraw troops and their assessment of the overall success or failure of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan were not markedly different from the views of those who have not served in the military. In a survey conducted Aug. 23-29, 2021 (before all American troops had left Afghanistan), 52% of military veterans said the U.S. decision to withdraw troops was the right one, while 47% said it was wrong. The balance of opinion was roughly similar among adults who have not served in the military, with 54% saying it was the right decision to withdraw troops and 42% saying it was the wrong decision. In that same survey, solid majorities of veterans (67%) and non-veterans (69%) said the U.S. mostly failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan. 

A second survey conducted in September took a closer look at views of Biden’s leadership on these issues. Here veterans were significantly more critical than non-veterans, though both groups were mostly critical of Biden. Six-in-ten veterans said the Biden administration had done a poor job handling the situation in Afghanistan. This compared with 47% of non-veterans. Some 16% of veterans said Biden had done a fair job in this area, as did 27% of non-veterans. Only a quarter or fewer in either group said the administration had done an excellent or good job.

Six-in-ten veterans said the Biden administration had done a poor job handling the situation in Afghanistan. 

Views on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and Biden’s handling of the situation differed widely by partisan identification – both among veterans and non-veterans. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were less supportive of the decision to pull troops out of the country and more critical of the Biden administration’s approach than Democrats and Democratic leaners. 

In fact, most of the strong criticism of the Biden administration in the survey came from Republicans, with 91% of Republican veterans and 81% of Republicans who didn’t serve in the military saying his administration had done a poor job handling the situation in Afghanistan.  

The overall differences in views between veterans and non-veterans are partially a reflection of the partisan leanings of the veteran population. Previous Pew Research Center studies of veterans have found that, as a group, they are more likely than non-veterans to align themselves with the Republican Party. And veterans who identify as Republican or lean to the GOP were more than five times as likely as Democratic or Democratic-leaning veterans in our survey to give the Biden administration a poor rating for the job it’s done in Afghanistan. 

Looking more broadly at views of Biden’s handling of foreign policy and military affairs, there are significant gaps in the opinions of veterans and non-veterans, mainly at the extremes. Roughly half of veterans said they have no confidence at all in Biden’s ability to make good decisions about foreign policy or in his ability to use military force wisely. In each case, only a third of non-veterans expressed the same view.  

Eight-in-ten Republican veterans said they are not at all confident in Biden when it comes to making the right decisions about foreign policy and the use of military force. 

Partisanship is strongly linked to these views as well, with Republicans much more critical than Democrats of Biden’s abilities. But even among Republicans, veterans stood out in their criticism of the president’s ability to make the right decisions in these areas. Eight-in-ten Republican veterans said they are not at all confident in Biden when it comes to making the right decisions about foreign policy and the use of military force. 

These party dynamics also came into play in veterans’ assessments of Donald Trump – but with the opposite effect. A May 2019 Pew Research Center survey found veterans were more approving than the public at large of the way Trump was handling his job as commander-in-chief of the military (57% of veterans approved vs. 41% of all adults). Among Republicans, 92% of veterans approved of the way Trump was handling this aspect of his job, higher than the share of all Republicans (81%). Among Democrats, only 6% of veterans and 8% of all adults approved of the job Trump was doing as commander-in-chief. 

Pew Research Center’s data is a valuable tool in helping understand veterans’ views on issues to which they bring a unique perspective. What our research has shown is that veterans are not immune from the party divides that so define our political lives these days. This extends not only to their attitudes about the Afghanistan withdrawal and even the war in Iraq, but also to their view of future threats. Roughly two-thirds of GOP veterans – but only one-in-four of their Democratic brethren – say Taliban control of Afghanistan poses a major threat to U.S. security.

Kim Parker is director of social trends research at Pew Research Center.