- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2013

Just over one third of U.S. military personnel say they support the Republican Party, down from nearly a half in 2006, according to the latest annual Military Times poll.

But the survey shows that underlying political attitudes among troops remain more or less unchanged, with a plurality of 41 percent continuing to describe themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative,” compared with 44 percent in 2006.

Support for the Democrats remains low, the publication reports. About 14 percent of respondents to the latest poll call themselves Democrats, the same as in 2006.

Instead, those disaffected with the Republican Party seem to have moved to identify as independents (up to 25 percent, from 22 percent in 2006), or libertarian (up from 3 percent in 2006 to 9 percent today.)

Military Times suggests that some of the fall in support for the GOP might be as a result of the party’s changing attitudes toward defense and defense spending, with the rise of the tea party and other pro-isolationist faction.

“It may have to do with the rise of the tea party movement,” said a Marine lieutenant colonel who described himself as conservative and told Military Times that he feels “less connected” with today’s GOP.

The poll results suggest very limited support in the ranks for tea party-style conservatism. Among those describing themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative,” fewer than 1 in 5 (18 percent) said they were strong tea party supporters. About half expressed limited support, and nearly a third (30 percent) explicitly distanced themselves from the tea party.

Other troops questioned by Military Times suggested the recent budget battles on Capitol Hill, in which a growing number of Republicans are coming out in support of cutting the defense budget, also have eroded some support for the party.

“Republicans kind of used to be seen as the party that took care of the military,” said one Army sergeant first class. “But recently, there’s a feeling that that has kind of shifted, and I don’t think people feel that the party is really looking out for the military the way it used to.”

The survey was conducted between Jan. 28 and March 4. A total of 2,121 active-duty service members responded to a questionnaire sent by Military Times. Because the sample is self-selecting, there is no margin of error.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at swaterman@washingtontimes.com.

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