Saturday, January 3, 2009

Military Times Poll: US Troops Wary, Pessimistic About Obama

Writing in a story that appeared in Wednesday's Army Times, Brendan McGarry says troops are worried about President-elect Barack Obama as commander in chief, citing his inexperience as a leader and lack of military service as the main reasons for their pessimism.

In a Military Times survey, six out of 10 active-duty service members say they are uncertain or pessimistic about Obama.
“Being that the Marine Corps can be sent anywhere in the world with the snap of his fingers, nobody has confidence in this guy as commander in chief,” said one lance corporal who asked not to be identified.
For the last eight years, members of the U.S. military have served under a Republican commander in chief who reflected their generally conservative views and leadership qualities.

The troops now face changes not only at the very top of the chain of command but perhaps in mission, policy and values.
Underlying much of the uncertainty is Obama’s stated 16-month timetable for pulling combat troops out of Iraq, as well as his calls to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military, according to survey responses and interviews.

“How are you going to safely pull combat troops out of Iraq?” said Air Force 1st Lt. Rachel Kleinpeter, an intelligence officer with the 100th Operations Support Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England. “And if you’re pulling out combat troops, who are you leaving to help support what’s left? What happens if Iraq falls back into chaos? Are we going to be there in five years doing the same thing over again?”

When asked who has their best interests at heart — Obama or President George W. Bush — a higher percentage of respondents picked Bush, though Bush has lost ground over time. About half of the respondents said Bush has their best interests at heart this year, the same percentage as last year but a decline from 69 percent in 2004.

Nearly one-third of respondents — including eight out of 10 black service members — said they are optimistic about their incoming boss.

Even some service members who voted against Obama — only 1 in 4 supported him over Sen. John McCain in a pre-election survey of Military Times subscribers —now express goodwill toward him as their new commander in chief.

“Overall, the prospect of having someone who isn’t necessarily tied to old strategies is a good thing,” said Air Force Master Sgt. David Ortegon, who said he voted for McCain. “Sometimes you need a fresh perspective to be able to handle our military readiness and the needs of the nation.”

The findings are part of the sixth annual Military Times survey of subscribers to Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times newspapers. This year’s survey, conducted Dec. 1 through Dec. 8, included more than 1,900 active-duty respondents.

The responses are not representative of the opinions of the military as a whole. The survey group overall under-represents minorities, women and junior enlisted service members, and over-represents soldiers.

But as a snapshot of the professional corps, the responses highlight the challenges Obama faces as he prepares to take command of military careerists with different political and cultural attitudes.

In keeping with previous surveys, nearly half of the respondents described their political views as conservative or very conservative. Slightly more than half said they consider themselves Republicans, 22 percent independents and 13 percent Democrats.
Read it: 2008 Military Times poll: Wary about Obama

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