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Teen Poll: Majority Expects Draft

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Most U.S. high-school students believe the government will restart the military draft during their lifetimes, and shrinking numbers are optimistic about the country's future, a new poll finds.

Among teenagers, 55 percent say young Americans will be required to serve in the military, up from 45 percent last year, according to "The State of Our Nation's Youth," an annual survey by the Horatio Alger Association.

During the year between polls - May 2003 to May 2004 - U.S. casualties mounted during attacks in Iraq even after President Bush declared on May 1, 2003, that major combat had ended.

Former President Nixon halted the draft in 1973. Pentagon leaders and numerous generals and admirals have said it should not be resumed because the volunteer military is more efficient. Critics including Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry have accused the Pentagon of engaging in a "backdoor draft" to compensate for manpower shortages in Iraq with wholesale mobilizations National Guard and Reserve units and other retention tactics.

In the poll, respondents were asked their views of a mandatory military service requirement of two years, and 70 percent of students were opposed.

Still, more young people than not said the United States was right to go to war in Iraq. The poll found 44 percent said the decision was correct, 33 percent said it was wrong, and the rest had no opinion or were unsure.

The students' outlook for the country was dimmer this year, but it remained relatively high, as 68 percent said they were hopeful. That was down from 75 percent last year.

More than two-thirds of students said they care who wins the presidential race, but two-thirds also said they have not closely followed news reporting about the race.

The Horatio Alger Association, which provides college scholarships to needy students, issued its report Tuesday. Results are based on a telephone poll of 1,007 students in grades nine to 12 at the time of the survey, taken May 5 to 7. The students ranged in age from 13 to 19, although most were 15 to 17.

The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.