The Military and the Media


Gallup polls recently released a study showing an overall improvement in trust of the media (see They report that 45 percent of Americans trust the media, up from 41 percent in 2017 and 32 percent in 2016. However, Democrats are much more trusting of the media than Republicans. How do cadets view the media? Our study shows a somewhat lower opinion of the media compared to civilians – at least when it comes to the media’s depictions of the military.

Cadet and Civilian Attitudes toward the Media*
  Civilians Cadets
Very/Somewhat Supportive 61% 47%
Neutral/No Opinion 24% 19%
Very/Somewhat Hostile 15% 33%
* Respondents were asked, “Mass media depictions of the military are…Very Supportive, Somewhat Supportive, Neutral, Somewhat Hostile, Very Hostile, or No Opinion.” Differences due to rounding.

Our data suggest that servicemembers have less trust in media than their civilian peers because twice as many cadets (33% vs. 15%) say that they believe that the media is somewhat or very hostile toward the military. Some veterans and servicemembers may view the protests of football players kneeling during the national anthem as anti-veteran. These images may also be associated with the media who report those stories.

And our cadet respondents are more opinionated than civilian respondents. Only about three percent of cadets said that they have no opinion on the matter compared to seven percent of civilians. However, about 17 percent of both groups reported being neutral on the matter.

It is difficult to readily access public opinion on social issues among people who serve or have served in the military because they cannot easily be identified in mass surveys and usually only account for small percentage of respondents. But this research shows that they do care about issues that relate to them and we should do our best to tease out the unique ways they view military- and defense-related issues.

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