Afghanistan, Redux

Opinion trends about the war in Afghanistan appeared in one of our previous posts from 2019. Since America and its allies have pulled out of Afghanistan, the data are worthy of another look. The previous post showed that civilians lost their support of the war as far back as 2010 but cadets continued their support going into 2019. So, what has changed?

Our newest data includes surveys from 2017 and 2021. It still shows that cadets (ROTC and academy) are much more supportive of the war in Afghanistan than their civilian peers. They were asked how supportive they are of, “Allowing the U.S. military to conduct further military action in Afghanistan.” Fifty-eight percent of cadets but only 46% of civilians said they ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ favor the war.

The intersection of military status and political party may help us to see how much of these opinions derive from the military affiliation or political values. Do political values drive people’s opinions about this war or does military status trump political positions? To answer this question, we looked at the intersection of military status (cadet or civilian) and political affiliation (Democrat, Republican, or Other).

It appears that identifying as a Republican is strongly associated with support for the war, regardless of military status. In fact, support for the war among civilian Republicans is a bit higher than their military counterparts but not by much (73% compared to 70%). Support among students identifying as Democrats drops significantly, especially among civilian Democrats. In this case, being associated with the military has a strong impact on favoring the war with 46% of Democratic cadets but only 33% of Democratic civilians favoring the war. A similar pattern emerges among people who claim neither Democrat nor Republican status although only minorities of both groups reporting support for it.

These findings reflect the current rhetoric on the war as President Joe Biden, a civilian Democrat, defending his decision to pull out of Afghanistan while Republicans deride his choice. Both groups appear to be influenced by the value systems associated with their status in society. It also appears that being associated with the military influences individuals beliefs, at least among Democrats and those with other political affiliations.

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