Young Americans continue to show steady interest in military service despite the improved economy and fading sense of patriotic duty that can be traced directly to 9/11, according to an analysis of Defense Department data conducted by Military Times.
In fact, internal Pentagon polls that track public opinion among the military’s target demographics — young men, in particular — show that today’s so-called millennial generation is not much different than its predecessors.
“What attracts even the millennials to military service are still largely the same reasons that attracted Generation X and the Baby Boomers to military service,” Stephanie Miller, the Pentagon’s director of accessions policy, said in an interview earlier this year. “It is things like education, the opportunity to travel, the opportunity to be part of a team, and meaningful work. It is those attractive points that are still relevant today as they were 50 years ago.”
A key indicator of interest in military service comes from the Pentagon’s “propensity” poll, in which officials ask young people ages 16 to 21 a basic question: “How likely is it that you will be serving in the military in the next few years?”
The percent who respond “probably” or “definitely” was recently pegged at 19 percent in the poll conducted last fall, the most recent data available. That’s not far from the peak of 23 percent in late 2003, when patriotic fervor surged following the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, and yet it’s far removed the historic low of 12 percent, experienced in late 2007, when pessimism about the war and high casualties dragged down public perception of military service.
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