Survey: Social Media Divides Military

Washington Report

(February 28, 2017) Military members are not immune from using social-media platforms to express their political opinions, which a researcher says “threatens to erode the trust in which the public holds the military, leading to it being viewed as just another interest group.”

A survey of 500 West Point cadets and active-component officers was done by Col. Heidi Urben, who works for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while studying at the Pentagon’s National Defense University. The survey was shared with Politico, which reported on it this week. The university will publish the full survey later this year, according to the publication that covers Capitol Hill.

In Urben’s survey, 75 percent said their fellow officers had shared articles or links via social-media sites like Twitter or Facebook that promoted highly political viewpoints. And 33 percent said they regularly see their colleagues directly advocate for or against a particular candidate or political issue.

The military has rated at the top of public institutions when it comes to trust from Americans, but Urben said the survey results put that at risk.

In an interview, she told Politico that military leaders “must do a better job of communicating why this matters. Those trust and confidence levels, in part, relate to the fact that we are viewed as nonpartisan.”