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Republican party slips in favor with troops

Latest survey reflects financial, job security woes

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As caucuses and primaries close, the race for the next President begins to heat up. Media coverage delves into each candidate's past, and voting history pollsters have begun to do the same with constituents.

First Command Financial Services recently released the results of its latest poll of middle-class military voters, and this new information gives some insight into how military personnel intend to cast their ballots and what issues are held most important to those surveyed.

Historically, servicemembers have been large supporters of conservative candidates. However,  the latest poll hints that this may be a trend that is about to change. Of those surveyed, 44-percent of non-commissioned officers in the ranks of E-6 and above preferred the democratic candidates. These numbers, while not a majority, come as a surprise given the traditionally fervent support from the military for republican candidates. Similarly, civilians with the same income level indicated that they also intend to vote democrat, by a four-percent margin. Though these numbers may lean favorably to the left, the issues most important to military personnel still indicate a strong republican belief system.

First Command reports that policies affecting military benefits, jobs and economic growth were the most important to voters who responded; conversely, gun control, immigration and education were issues that ranked near the bottom of the list. Currently, Congress and the Department of Defense are continuing to work out the details of already-accepted military retirement changes while looking into the possibility of cutting some medical benefits for the military. Policies covering jobs and economic growth have been a worry for most voters since the recession of 2008. As most of the middle class finds itself caught in a position of greater financial struggle, it is no surprise that these issues remain at the top of their concerns.

"Continuing concerns over the economy, uncertainty about the future of Social Security and rising healthcare costs are financial issues of great importance this year," said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command, in a new press release. "Our men and women in uniform face the added worries of how military budget cuts, sequestration and defense downsizing will impact their family finances. Recent changes to military pay and benefits, such as the newly approved military retirement system, are intensifying feelings of financial anxiety. The positions that candidates support regarding policies on military benefits will clearly influence the votes that career military families decide to cast in the 2016 primaries."

The race for a President to lead us into 2020 may still have many contenders, but this survey allows that whomever may be elected will have to be strong on the issues of military benefits and growing the workforce in order to obtain the much sought-after military vote. Currently, according to the survey, higher-ranked NCOs may be leaning toward a democratic candidate. But if those candidates do not go against their own party's tradition of cutting military benefits, voters could easily turn toward a republican with a history of supporting them.

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