Patriotism or Paychecks: Who Believes What About Why Soldiers Serve

Ronald R. Krebs, Robert Ralston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although voluntary recruitment to the military is today the Western norm, we know little about citizens’ beliefs regarding service members’ reasons for joining. This article, reporting and analyzing the results of a nationally representative U.S. survey, rectifies this gap. We find that, despite the reality of market-based recruitment, many Americans continue to subscribe to an idealized image of service members as moved by self-sacrificing patriotism. This belief is most heavily concentrated among conservative Americans. Liberal Americans are more likely to believe that service members join primarily for economic reasons. Those furthest to the left are more inclined to aver that service members join chiefly to escape desperate circumstances. Perhaps most surprising, we discover a disconnect between respondents with military experience and their families: The former are more likely to acknowledge that pay and benefits are a primary motivation for service, whereas their families are more likely to embrace a patriotic service narrative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-48
Number of pages24
JournalArmed Forces and Society
Volume48
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is dedicated to the memory of our late colleague Aaron Rapport, formerly of the University of Cambridge, whose incisive comments profoundly shaped the survey on which this article is based. The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research has been generously supported by a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship from the University of Minnesota.

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research has been generously supported by a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship from the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

Keywords

  • civil–military relations
  • militarism
  • recruitment/retention
  • veterans

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