Military Support For GOP Is In Free Fall

Pardon my tardiness. While searching online for interesting political tidbits, I came across a two-month-old story of towering significance that received a paltry amount of media exposure. The Los Angeles Times reported in January that the Military Times's annual poll of active-duty service members found support among them for the Republican Party is dropping significantly. So significantly, in fact, that the 30-year trend of "Republicanization" of the military has reversed and is in a free fall.

The Times reported on a one-year decline of 10 points from 56 to 46 percent from January 2006 to January 2007 among active-duty service personnel who self-identify as Republicans. The year before, a 4-point drop cut Republican identification from an all-time high of 60 percent.

One has to infer the Iraq war is taking its toll on Republican supremacy not only at the voting booth but also among the good and honorable folks actually doing the fighting.

Only during the past several decades has the military moved right as a voting bloc. My father-in-law, a career Army major in World War II, was a Democrat, although not particularly partisan, as was the case with his generation. The Times reports that all that started to change in the 1970s: "The rightward shift was dramatic: In 1976, 25 percent of civilians characterized themselves as Republicans, while 33 percent of military officers were Republicans--a military-civilian "gap" of only 8 percent. By 1996, the military-civilian gap on party affiliation had grown to 33 percent; while 34 percent of civilians self-identified as Republicans, so did a whopping 70 percent of military officers."

Not long ago, I was speaking with a conservative Republican congressional staffer who told me all her friends from high school now serving in Iraq were becoming more and more vehement in their opposition to the war. I explained to her that two close friends of mine (both military wives) remain vehemently loyal to President Bush and to the war effort.

"Are their husbands in Iraq?" she asked. "No" was my answer. "That's the difference," she explained.

These polling data bear out her argument. My impression was erroneous. Hers was correct.

By Bonnie Erbe