New poll shows broad support for bringing troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, a more diplomatic approach to Iran, and expanding veterans’ options for community care through VA
ARLINGTON, Va.—In conjunction with YouGov, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) on Thursday released its annual poll of veterans and military families – and adding the general public in this year’s sample – gauging opinions on issues such as foreign policy, federal spending, and veterans’ health care issues.
A full two-thirds of veterans and majorities of military families and the general public support full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Notably, there were sharp increases in “strong support” among veterans for withdrawal from both conflicts. When asked about diplomatic versus military approaches to address Iran, pluralities across all three groups were in favor of more diplomacy, with very little support for increasing military action.
“Veterans and military families understand better than anyone that our foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, has gone awry and is no longer serving our national interests,” said Nate Anderson, CVA Executive Director. “It is therefore no surprise there is strong support among both groups for withdrawing our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan along with support for more diplomacy in our foreign policy. There is a better way, and the American people see it. We must ensure our leaders in Washington see it, too.”
The poll showed upward movement in the favorability of VA care and ease of access, possibly due to expanded access and community options under the VA MISSION Act. While numbers trended up, there is still a strong sense amongst those polled that veterans should be allowed to take their VA health care benefits outside the VA to get care. Vast majorities across the board supported this idea, a trend that has remained since CVA began polling on it in 2019. Of note, there was an increase from 2020 in veteran support for health care choice even if it meant paying “a little more out of pocket.”
“Since the VA MISSION Act was passed and implemented, we have seen a marked uptick in the favorability of VA health care and benefits services,” Anderson added. “It’s clear empowering veterans with control of their own heath care decisions is both popular and leading to better outcomes. This is reinforced by the fact that veterans show they are just as supportive of taking their health care benefits outside of the VA, even when it means paying a little more out of pocket. If our nation’s obligation is to care for those who have ‘borne the battle …’ then it is logical we remove any barriers that restrict access by allowing veterans to choose the care that is best for them.”
How the federal government is spending taxpayer dollars was another issue in which all groups demonstrated particularly strong opinions. Vast majorities of all groups polled saw the more-than-$27 trillion debt as a threat to national security. Amongst veterans and military households there were sharp increases in those who considered it an “extreme threat” – just shy of 10 percentage point spikes from 2020. With regard to defense spending specifically, majorities thought it should be decreased or kept about the same, with a significant increase in those saying it should be decreased from 2020.
Key findings of the poll, including comparative analysis from CVA’s 2019 and 2020 polls:
- A vast majority of the general public (80%) believe our military engagement around the world should be reduced or stay about the same. Only 6% believe we should be more engaged.
- Military households have increasingly wanted less military engagement – up 8 points since 2019. Veterans by and large (56%) want less military engagement – an increase of 8 points from 2019.
- A full two-thirds of veterans (67%) would support a move by the president to withdrawal all troops from Afghanistan – an increase of nearly 10 points (8%) from 2019
- Similarly, a majority of veterans (68%) strongly or somewhat support a full withdrawal from Iraq. A majority of the general population (53%) and military households (61%) also support such a move.
- A plurality of general public (44%), veterans (42%), and military households (44%) are in favor of more diplomacy over military action to deal with Iran.
- Conversely, only 9% of the general public, 20% of veterans, and 12% of military households support more military action.
VETERANS HEALTH CARE AND THE VA
- Roughly 9 in 10 (87%) of veterans and military households (87%) are in favor of letting veterans use their VA health care benefits outside of the VA system. Only 7% of veterans and 5% of military households are opposed to such a measure.
- There is overwhelming support (86%) of veterans who would favor using their VA health care benefits outside the VA even if it meant spending a little more out of pocket – an increase of 7 points from 2020.
- While there is increasing favorability of the quality of VA care and the benefits and services of the VA among veterans, less than half of those polled in both groups report the quality to be “good” or “excellent.”
- Among military households quality of care favorability has retreated to 2019 levels.
- While the percentage of veterans (71%) and military households (67%) who think the national debt is an extreme or somewhat of a threat has remained steady since 2020, the percentage who view it as an “extreme threat” has increased among both groups, increasing 8 and 7 points, respectively.
- A majority of the general public (60%), veterans (61%), and military households (64%), say military/defense spending should be decreased or kept the same. This level of support has remained about the same since 2019.
Data for 2021 was gathered by YouGov between December 22, 2020 and January 6, 2021. YouGov interviewed 862 respondents of the US general population, 922 active military and military veterans, and 930 respondents with a family member in the military. Each group was then matched down to a sample of 800 for an overall total of 2400 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race, and education. The frame for the general population and veterans groups were constructed by stratified sampling from the full 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year sample with selection within strata by weighted sampling with replacements (using the person weights on the public use file). The frame for the family member group was created based on characteristics of respondents from the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study who have family members in the military.
Data for the 2019 and 2020 was gathered by Dynata. Interviews were conducted online April 7-10, 2020 among N=707 Veterans and N=803 Military Households using the Dynata Online Research Panel. The estimated margin of error for both samples is +/- 3.5 percentage points. Sampling frames and quotas were utilized to ensure appropriate sampling of the country’s Veteran and Military Family populations. Research was conducted by Concerned Veterans for America.
Two additional questions, coming at the end of the survey, are omitted from reporting. The questions omitted pertain to name recognition and favorability toward organizations that serve the needs of veterans.