The polling organization surveyed 1,006 Americans over the age of 18 between November 3 and November 4, and 49% of those questioned expressed support for compulsory service. Further, “a majority of Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, favor it (57%), as do men (57%) and those 65 or older (66%),” Gallup summarized.
Gallup noted that efforts to actually impose such a policy — such House Rep. Charles Rangel’s repeated attempts between 2003 and 2015 to mandate it through legislation —have fallen flat.
Americans’ preferences for a traditional draft have fluctuated over the decades. Gallup explained:
“A majority of Americans (54%) in 1977 favored sticking to a volunteer force, but two 1980 surveys showed a majority wanting to return to a military draft. Eventually, most Americans endorsed the all-volunteer concept, with five polls conducted between 1998 and 2007 showing majorities from 69% to 85% rejecting a return to the draft.”
The draft was a powerful point of contention during the divisive Vietnam War, prompting many of those selected to fight to burn their draft cards in protest.
In Gallup’s poll idea of forcing young people to serve a mandatory year in the armed forces — as opposed to a draft — was unsurprisingly least popular among young people. Four in ten favored the proposition, however, marking a significant portion of those who would potentially be affected but still wanted to see it enacted.
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“While Americans today are not overwhelmingly in favor of it, neither are they overwhelmingly opposed,” Gallup observed.
Militarism has long been a core element of American identity, as evidenced by millions of Americans’ stalwart devotion to and respect for soldiers. Though it currently remains unlikely that mandatory service will be implemented, that half the country would support it reflects this value system.
Countries that require mandatory service include Israel, North Korea, China, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Egypt, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.