Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jason K. Dempsey's "Our Army"

Jason K. Dempsey is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who served in Afghanistan. He has a PhD in political science from Columbia University and is a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations, and reported the following:
Conventional wisdom holds that the American military is overwhelmingly conservative and Republican, and extremely political. Our Army: Soldiers, Politics and American Civil-Military Relations paints a more complex picture, demonstrating that while army officers are likely to be more conservative, rank-and-file soldiers hold political views that mirror those of the American public as a whole, and army personnel are less partisan and politically engaged than most civilians.

The book is based on two groundbreaking studies of the social and political attitudes of military personnel conducted prior to the 2004 election. The primary study, of the active-duty army, was the first ever to address the attitudes of junior officers and enlisted soldiers in addition to studying the army’s senior ranks. The second study was a similar survey of West Point cadets conducted on the eve of the election.

Page 99 of Our Army is a fortuitous choice for discussion as it presents one of the key findings to come from my analysis: Members of the army are much less likely than civilians to consider themselves a member of either the Republican or Democratic Party. Only 43% of those serving in the army identify themselves with a party, compared to 65% of the broader American population. While this may be surprising to many, it makes sense when one remembers that the bulk of the military is made up of 18 to 24 year-old males—a demographic not prone to political participation. Indeed, the data reveal that there are two distinct populations in the army. There are senior officers, whose attitudes and opinions are the most likely to be studied and discussed, and the rest of the army, who are rarely studied but often assumed to mirror those in the senior ranks. This study reveals that this is not the case, and that the majority of the military looks very much like the population from which members of the military are drawn.

For those interested in military attitudes and public opinion polling, the analysis around page 99 presents data and findings that have previously been unavailable. The earlier chapters place these findings in historical context while the later chapters discuss the implications of these findings for the relationship between Americans and their military.
Read an excerpt from Our Army, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue