By EMILY SWANSON and HANNAH FINGERHUT
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 6 in 10 military veterans voted for Republican candidates in the November midterm elections, and a similar majority had positive views of President Donald Trump’s leadership. But women, the fastest growing demographic group in the military, are defying that vote trend.
That’s according to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 115,000 midterm voters — including more than 4,000 current and former service members — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. It found that veterans overall approved of Trump’s job performance, showing high support for the president’s handling of border security and his efforts to make the U.S. safer from terrorism.
Male veterans were much more likely to approve of Trump than those who haven’t served, 58 percent to 46 percent.
But 58 percent of female veterans disapproved of Trump, which is similar to the share of women overall (61 percent).
Some takeaways on veterans:
Overall, 56 percent of veterans — both current and former service members — said they approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 43 percent disapproved. Voters who have not served in the military were more likely to disapprove (58 percent) than approve (42 percent) of the president’s job performance.
The survey found that differences in support for Trump between veterans and nonveterans extended across racial and ethnic groups, including among whites (62 percent of veterans approve versus 49 percent of nonveterans), Latinos (53 percent vs. 28 percent) and African-Americans (22 percent vs. 10 percent).
The poll showed veterans more likely than nonveterans to say Trump has the right temperament to serve as president (48 percent to 32 percent) and that he’s a strong leader (59 percent to 49 percent). They were slightly more likely to say Trump cares about “people like you” (46 percent to 40 percent).
On the issues, veterans were significantly more likely than those who have not served to approve of Trump’s handling of border security, 62 percent to 48 percent, and to think the Trump administration has made the U.S. safer from terrorism, 51 percent to 35 percent.
DRAIN THE SWAMP?
Veterans had good success running for Congress compared to previous years. Eighteen new veterans were elected to the House, seven of whom are Democrats.
That’s the largest number of new veterans elected to the House since 2010, and the biggest influx of Democratic vets since 1996, according to Seth Lynn, a University of San Francisco professor who runs Veterans Campaign, a group that prepares veterans for careers in politics. One fresh veteran face — Republican Rick Scott of Florida — will join the Senate.
In all, more than 170 veterans were on November’s congressional ballot as major-party candidates. Some vets, such as Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, ran close House races but ultimately fell short on Election Day.
A total of 96 military veterans will serve as lawmakers next year, 66 Republicans and 30 Democrats.
Lynn said veterans in previous elections had often chosen to run for office due to concerns over U.S. military policy, such as President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. But he said veteran candidates this election cycle seemed moved by general voter dissatisfaction with government.
“The military is the institution where many Americans have the most confidence, but that isn’t the case with Congress,” Lynn said. “For many of the Democratic women veterans who chose to run, it was basically a response to how they felt the Trump administration was doing and a call to service.”
The poll shows significant concerns among men who have served in the military about accusations of sexual misconduct: 40 percent said they are very concerned about men not being given the opportunity to defend themselves when they’re accused. That’s compared with 28 percent who said they are very concerned about women not being believed when they make allegations.