War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era

The Military-Civilian Gap

The report is based on two surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center: one of the nation’s military veterans and one of the general public. A total of 1,853 veterans were surveyed, including 712 who served in the military after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The general public survey was conducted among 2,003 adult respondents.

Post-9/11 Veterans and Their Wars

• Veterans are more supportive than the general public of U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even so, they are ambivalent. Just half of all post-9/11 veterans say that, given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting. A smaller share (44%) says the war in Iraq has been worth it. Only one-third (34%) say both wars have been worth fighting, and a nearly identical share (33%) say neither has been worth the costs.

• About half of post-9/11 veterans (51%) say relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism, while four-in-ten endorse the opposite view: that overwhelming force is the best way to defeat terrorism. The views of the public are nearly identical: 52% say too much force leads to more terrorism, while 38% say using military force is the best approach.

• About six-in-ten post-9/11 veterans (59%) support the noncombat “nation-building” role the military has taken on in Iraq and Afghanistan. The public and pre-9/11 veterans are less enthused. Just 45% of both groups say they think this is an appropriate role for the military.

• While nation building gets mixed reviews, large majorities of veterans and the public support the use of unmanned “drone” aircraft for aerial attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Nearly nine-in-ten (86%) veterans of all eras say this is a good thing; 68% of the public agrees.

• Both the public and veterans oppose bringing back the military draft. More than eight-in-ten post-9/11 veterans and 74% of the public say the U.S. should not return to the draft at this time.