Americans say veterans ought to be getting much more than a day in their name

November 10, 2021, 10:27 PM UTC

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the First World War came to an end. That date each year is now recognized as Veterans Day in the U.S. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll indicates that most Americans view participating in the war whose ending inspired Veterans Day as not a mistake, and even more agree about World War II. But far more Americans think sending troops to fight in more recent wars was a mistake. And a majority also say that for all their efforts, the country’s veterans are not getting much more than a day in their name.

Is the government doing enough for veterans? No, say most Americans. Should the U.S. be spending more to help veterans? Yes! Do Americans show enough respect for veterans? No!

Support for veterans is strong and consistent: among members of both major parties and Independents, in all four major regions, among men and women, and among veterans and non-veterans.

Veterans Day

Support for the wars veterans have fought is more mixed. The wars that respondents are more likely to have lived through are the most likely to be seen as mistakes. That is particularly true of the war in Vietnam. A clear majority say that it was a mistake, the only military engagement most Americans say was wrong. Nearly half view Afghanistan and the most recent war in Iraq as mistakes.

Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to think of recent wars as mistakes. More than half of Republicans disagree that Afghanistan and the most recent Iraq war, conflicts that began in Republican administrations, were mistakes. Opinion about Vietnam is slightly different. More Republicans call it a mistake than don’t (43% to 37%), but much larger percentages of Democrats (66%) and Independents (57%) call it a mistake. U.S. involvement in Vietnam escalated when Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, took the White House after the assassination of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy.

The human cost of war reaches into many households. One in four Americans know someone who died while serving in the military, including 39% of Americans age 65 and older.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between November 6 and November 9, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty