Poll: Majority Support Women In Combat Roles

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 29 2013 1:23 PM

Two-Thirds of Americans Support the End of the Ban on Women in Combat

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Members of the medical staff from the U.S. Army's 31st Combat Support Hospital carry a young girl from a MEDEVAC helicopter on Sept. 18, 2010 near Marja, Afghanistan

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

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.

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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: 

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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.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.