A recent Gallup report reveals that American trust in the US military has plummeted to its lowest level in more than 20 years, with the decline gaining momentum in the past half-decade.
The poll carried out from June 1 to June 22, showed that only 60% of Americans would express “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in the US military. This level of confidence has not been seen since 1997 and has not been lower since 1988, according to the data firm. The confidence level is also marginally higher than that recorded during the Vietnam War period when it oscillated between 50% and 58%.
The most significant part of this slump took place in the past five years. Public trust surged following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, maintaining above 70% for nearly 20 years before sliding to 69% in 2021 and 60% two years thereafter.
It’s hard to say exactly why the decline occurred, but Gallup noted a precipitous drop following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. The 20-year-long war and reconstruction effort was supposed to create a democratic state capable of defeating the Taliban* insurgency and possibly even reintegrating former Taliban fighters into a new, more liberal Afghan society.
This decreasing trust coincided with the fall of the US-backed government in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban, who seized Kabul even before the complete departure of US forces. The ensuing chaos left both the US and Taliban forces struggling to provide security for would-be refugees, many of whom had collaborated with the US, amidst threats from a Daesh-affiliated group.
The image of US troops leaving Kabul airport, trailed by a throng of refugees, while their erstwhile enemies asserted control outside the airport gates, underscored the perceived failure of the 20-year war for many observers. In terms of political affiliation, the poll indicated that both Democrats and Republicans tend to express higher trust in the military, albeit not by a significant margin: 68% of Republican voters and 62% of Democratic voters responded affirmatively.
However, political independents, a category not associated with the two main parties and which has recently expanded, were below average, with only 55% expressing high trust in the US military.
The survey further noted that this decline in military trust mirrors a broader trend of dwindling public confidence in other national institutions, including small businesses, the police, healthcare systems, the US Supreme Court, banks, and labor unions. Many of these institutions saw their lowest-ever levels of public trust in the poll.