No evidence veterans support extremist groups more than American public: study
Veterans do not support far-left or far-right extremist groups any more than the average American population, according to a study released this week from the nonprofit RAND Corporation.
About 5.5 percent of veterans supported the far-left extremist group Antifa, compared to 10 percent of the American public, according to the study, while only 0.7 percent of veterans backed white supremacist organizations compared to 7 percent of the U.S. population.
The study also found that veterans were less likely to support the neo-fascist group the Proud Boys or the QAnon conspiracy theory that a cabal of Democratic elites and Satan-worshipping pedophiles run the U.S. government.
Still, a similar percentage of veterans — 17.7 percent — support the need for political violence as the American public, at 19 percent.
And about 28.8 percent of veterans support the Great Replacement theory, a conspiracy about Democrats seeking to replace white Americans with migrants for political gain, compared to 34 percent of the U.S. public.
The study’s lead author Todd Helmus said, “we found no evidence to support the notion that the veteran community, as a whole, exhibits higher rates of support for violent extremist groups or extremist beliefs than the American public.”
“However, our findings do suggest work still may be needed to make sure veterans are not susceptible to being recruited by those with extremist ideologies,” Helmus said in a statement.
The findings come as there is growing concern among Democrats about far-right extremisms within the ranks of the U.S. military.
At least three active duty service members were charged with participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, and dozens of veterans are believed to have participated in the insurrection.
The alleged Pentagon leaker, Jack Teixeira, expressed some far-right conspiracies, according to documents filed by Department of Justice prosecutors. Teixeira is accused of leaking classified documents online.
Ryan Brown, a co-author of the RAND study, said that “veterans bring a unique and dangerous set of capabilities to extremist groups.”
“So even a smaller prevalence rate of extremist attitudes among veterans could still represent an outsized security threat to the United States,” Brown said in a statement.
The RAND study was conducted in November and December 2022 among 1,100 respondents, with the majority completing the survey on the web rather than on the phone.
The study had several limitations, including a reliance on veterans to report their beliefs honestly.
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