How much do Americans care about military experience in their politicians?

Reading this Politico article about Seth Moulton.  It’s assumed as a truth that “a war record appeals to voters.”  But how much does it matter?

I haven’t seen a detailed study of this, but let’s look at presidential elections.  Since 1988, the more impressive military record has lost to the less impressive one.


Trump beats Hillary (no military service by either one, but Trump avoided the draft and Hillary was on the Senate Armed Services committee)


Obama beats Romney (no military service)


Obama beats McCain (no military service beats war hero)


W beats John Kerry (went AWOL during the war beats war hero, partly by going right at Kerry’s war record)


W beats Al Gore (went AWOL beats served in Vietnam)


Clinton beats Bob Dole (draft avoider beats war hero)


Clinton beats George H. W. Bush (draft avoider beats war hero)


George H. W. Bush beats Dukakis (war hero beats Army veteran)

This is the only time in the last ten elections that the more impressive military service beat the less impressive one


Reagan beats Walter Mondale (no service beats Army veteran)


Reagan beats Carter (no service beats former US Navy officer)

This is a small sample of course and each of these elections was its own weird thing of course.

My theory is that reporters and pundits assume that being a war hero is more important to voters than it is.

I find this interesting because it feels like, logically, deciding to put yourself in harm’s way in service to your country is a good demonstration of character for someone running for a public service office.  But I don’t think elections work through logic.  Also I think America’s ideas about our own military are confusing and sometimes contradictory.

Again, I don’t know the answer, sometimes here at Helytimes we’re just asking questions!  Consider this a classic “Is This Interesting?”


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