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Americans No Longer Believe the US Military is Leading the World


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Getty - NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP

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.

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Image Credit: Gallup

This does not mean Americans don't think being the leading superpower militarily is important anymore. In fact, Gallup shows quite the opposite.

A US soldier gestures while holding his national flag aboard the last C17 aircraft carrying US troops out of Iraq at US Camp Adder on the outskirts of the southern city of Nasiriyah on December 17, 2011. The last US forces left Iraq and entered Kuwait, nearly nine years after launching a divisive war to oust Saddam Hussein, and just as the oil-rich country grapples with renewed political deadlock. AFP PHOTO/MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A US soldier gestures while holding his national flag aboard the last C17 aircraft carrying US troops out of Iraq; Image Credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Image Credit: Gallup

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.

TRIANGLE, VA - NOVEMBER 10: A U.S. Marine holds a U.S. flag during a naturalization ceremony November 10, 2014 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia. Service members, military veterans and civilians take part in 40 naturalization ceremonies across the country from November 7 - 14 to honor Veterans Day and become U.S. citizens. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Image Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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.

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Image Credit: Gallup

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%).

KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT - DECEMBER 15: U.S. Army soldiers from the 2-82 Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, salute during the playing of retreat during the daily flag lowering ceremony as they prepare to fly home to Fort Hood, Texas after being one of the last American combat units to exit from Iraq on December 15, 2011 at Camp Virginia, near Kuwait City, Kuwait. Today the U.S. military formally ended its mission in Iraq after eight years of war and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images,)
Image Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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%).

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