Poll: Public backs women in combat

Nearly three-quarters of the public supports allowing women to serve in combat roles, according to a new poll.

A Gallup poll released Friday evening found 74 percent of respondents would vote for a law that allows women to serve in combat, while 20 percent would oppose it.

Gallup conducted the poll as part of its daily tracking Thursday, following the announcement that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey would lift the ban on women serving in ground combat units.

The move will open up as many as 237,000 new positions to female service members, although the military services have until 2016 to decide if they want to keep some positions closed to women.

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Support for allowing women in combat roles was nearly equal among genders, with 73 percent of men in favor along 76 percent of women.

There were larger differences when broken down by party and age. Among Democrats, 83 percent of respondents supported ending the ban, compared to 70 percent of Republicans.

The age gap was even larger, with 84 percent of 18-to-49 year olds backing women in combat, while 63 percent of respondents over 50 did.

Gallup has asked various questions about women in combat over the past two decades, with mixed responses. A poll in 2007 found nearly the same result as the one conducted Thursday, where 74 percent of respondents supported women having combat jobs. In 2005, 66 percent favored women “serving in combat zones as support for the ground troops,” a common occurrence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2001, the split was 52-46 for supporting women serving as ground combat troops, and was 55-42 in 1992 for allowing women to have combat jobs.