One in Four US Troops See White Nationalism in the Military: Poll

A new poll conducted by the Military Times provides valuable insight into white nationalist activity in the Armed Forces, and raises concerns about the military’s potentially expanding role as protest peacekeepers.

Between September 7 and 25, the Military Times conducted a confidential online survey of over a thousand active-duty US troops with questions related to national security and the Trump administration.

About 25 percent of those troops reportedly replied that they have witnessed white nationalism in their ranks. Unsurprisingly, about 42 percent of those who “personally experienced examples of white nationalism” were minority soldiers, whereas 18 percent were white.

And as a collective, white nationalism was ranked as a more pressing security issue than various US conflicts in the Middle East.

A Military Times poll screenshot.

According to the Military Times survey, more than sixty percent of the polled soldiers stated they would “support activating the National Guard or reserves” to handle civil unrest resulting from white nationalist activities.

This data is critical in understanding the potentially increasing role of soldiers as domestic peacekeepers and their impact on social movements.

As the volatility of the sociopolitical landscape rises, federal and state officials may rely more on the military to keep the peace during protests. We recently saw this when Florida Governor Rick Scott mobilized the National Guard in anticipation of a prominent alt-right figure’s speech at the University of Florida on October 19.

And with increased support from service personnel to intervene in social disorder, this may open a Pandora’s box of issues ranging from the death of civilians to even deadly shootouts between open-carry militia members and US service personnel.

Mary Ann Vecchio screams as she kneels over the body of Jeffrey Miller* during an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University, Ohio, May 4, 1970. (Source)

The former was seen on May 4, 1970, when members of the Ohio National Guard fired at hundreds of anti-war protesters, ultimately killing four and injuring nine students of Kent State University.

Increased government armed intervention in protests could also empower social movements.

In the aftermath of the Kent State shootings, nearly five million US students joined a national student strike against the government, among other monumental milestones in the anti-war movement.

Furthermore, armed anti-government and anarchist networks may also feel enabled by an increased presence of troops during demonstrations.

The poll data also begs the question of how service personnel may feel if they were called to confront protesters whose beliefs align with their own. For example, would soldiers belonging to white supremacist elements feel conflicted if they were ordered to disperse like-minded protesters?

Nevertheless, sending soldiers to quell violent protests could affect how social movements operate in the United States, and seriously damage society’s relationship with the state should armed interventions go awry.