Two-thirds of of Americans say they support an end to the ban on female soldiers serving in combat, according to a new Washington Post-Pew poll conducted after Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced the rescission of the ban last week.
Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they support women serving in units that engage in close ground combat. Most Americans, 58 percent, also see the change as a catalyst for more opportunities for women in the military. Just 7 percent believe it'll make things worse for women, while 30 percent don't think the change will matter very much.
Broken down by demographic, support for the policy change is still strong: While only 52 percent of those over 65 support it (compared to 74 percent of those 18-29), pretty much every demographic polled with majority support. On opportunities for women in the military, just 46 percent of Republicans believe the change will have a positive effect, compared to 67 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of those in a military household.
What about Americans' views on how this will harm or help military effectiveness, one of the big terms thrown around by those opposed to a previous military milestone, the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell?" Here are the results:
A plurality (49 percent) don't really think it'll matter either way, while those who do think it'll have an impact on military effectiveness lean towards seeing it as a positive: 29 percent believe it'll improve things, while 15 percent say it'll do some harm. And while military families are a bit more skeptical of its effect—26 percent see it as a boon to effectiveness, while 22 percent think it'll have a negative impact—it's, once again, Republicans who go against the trend: 20 percent of Republicans believe that women in combat roles will improve military effectiveness, while 29 percent think it'll harm it.
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