According to a new poll from Gallup, for the first time since 1994, Americans are less likely to see the U.S. as the world's number one military power.
In a question which asked if America is “No. 1” or just one of a number of world powers, only 49% of respondents put the U.S. at the top. The percentage is a significant drop from 64% in 2010, and equal to the number of respondents who listed America as just one of several countries.
This does not mean Americans don't think being the leading superpower militarily is important anymore. In fact, Gallup shows quite the opposite.
In the past decade, the highest polling for this question was 68% (not far off from the high mark of 70% following 9/11).
When asked in 2016, 67% said they feel it is important for the U.S. to be “No. 1” when it comes military might.
The index at Global Firepower ranks countries by military prowess and takes into account a number of analytics including manpower and resources (but not nuclear weapons). It lists the United States at the top spot.
But perception, especially of a nation's citizens, can be difficult to change. One way politicians suggest to improve our military — and outlook — is through increased defense spending.
Based on the viewpoint from the first question of the poll, the answer to the final question about spending on national defense makes sense.
The largest group of people, 37% of respondents, answered “too little.” While 37% does not represent a majority, this is most people with that answer since 9/11. The other options regarding defense spending were “about right” (27%) and “too much” (32%).
Gallup has asked the defense question spending since 1969, much longer than the first two questions. Based on this 40+ years of data, they noticed some trends:
The broad patterns show that Americans' belief that military spending is too low rise after the real-world level of such spending goes down.
Overwhelmingly, Republicans tend to favor more defense spending.
From demographic information provided in the survey, Gallup found that 66% of Republicans wanted more spending on the military, three times more likely than Independents (27%) or Democrats (20%).