The annual poll, timed to mark the start of the long Memorial Day weekend, showed that 26 percent of Americans say the Army is the most important military branch, followed closely by the Air Force at 23 percent. The Marine Corp was called the most important by 19 percent, the Navy by 17 percent and the Coast Guard by 3 percent, the poll found.
The Army has edged out other military branches in Gallup surveys conducted throughout the last decade.
Gallup started asking Americans about the importance of U.S. military branches in the 1940s, using a variety of questions over the years.
Americans until the mid-2000s always viewed the Air Force as the most important branch of the military. While it still ranks high today, it no longer dominates, the pollsters said.
Importance does not necessarily equal prestige.
The Marine Corps has consistently been considered the nation’s most prestigious military branch, even if not the most important, with nearly half of Americans — 47 percent — saying they respect Marines the most.
The Air Force was a distant second, with 17 percent saying is was the most prestigious branch, said the poll.
“Despite successful Navy SEALs raids that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 and helped rescue the captain of the merchant marine vessel Maersk Alabama from pirates in an incident that was the basis of the movie ‘Captain Phillips,’ the Navy’s image has not benefited,” Gallup noted.
The poll found that 12 percent of Americans say the Navy is the most prestigious military branch.
“They clearly see the Marine Corps as the most prestigious,” the pollsters said. “The Marines have benefited from being viewed as an expeditionary force central to U.S. wars over the last century, along with an omnipresent advertising campaign touting ‘the few, the proud.’ “