With over 22.6 million total military personnel, veterans, and families in the US and abroad, the military vote is one that carries a lot of weight. In order to effectively campaign to the military community, though, you need to understand how the military is consuming media, what they believe, and what they value. So how can you ensure your political advertising campaigns reach military voters to win the military vote in 2020? We leveraged our 30-year relationship with the military community and our proprietary data to find out.

military vote

Military personnel are turning out to cast a ballot

According to our research, service members and their family members are not only showing up to vote, but they’re showing up in droves. 

Over 90% of veterans and 96% of retirees are likely to vote in this upcoming 2020 national election — which is 46% more likely than their civilian counterparts. 

Additionally, 70% of active duty and reserves are likely to turn up to cast a ballot this fall. Active duty members are 14% more likely than the civilian population to vote, and their spouses are 33% more likely than their civilian counterparts to vote.

The military community believes in the democracy they serve, and that’s demonstrated by this high voter turnout. Make sure that your political campaign is targeting the military vote.

Read next: Your Brand’s Guide to Advertising During Military Appreciation Month

Military party affiliations have shifted over the past 4 years

military vote

Over the past five years, the military community overall has shifted its party affiliations. In 2015, 28% of the military identified as Republican; in 2020, this number has risen to 40%. 

And four years ago, active duty, reserves, and spouses were more decisive about their party affiliations, with only 26% not affiliated with a party. In 2020, however, 45% identify as independent or report having no political affiliation.

The majority of the military community reports that they’re middle of the road — 41% active duty, 41% reserves, 40% military spouses, and 36% post 9/11 veterans. The remaining voters still skew conservative or very conservative. Overall, 9% of military members identify as Democrat (compared to 20% in 2015).

Generally, younger military members are slightly more likely to identify as somewhat liberal. Over 13% of active duty, reserves, and spouses identify as somewhat liberal — compared to 9% of retirees who identify as somewhat liberal.

In the case of older veterans and military retirees, you’re dealing with a more decisive and right-leaning group of voters. Older veterans are 57% more likely to be Republican, and retirees are 64% more likely to be Republican.

Political advertising: media source matters to win the military vote

Political advertising is all about trust, and some media sources are more trusted by your target audience than others. So what media sources do military personnel trust the most?

Among active duty, reserves, and their spouses, online media and newspapers are the most trusted media source. Post 9/11 voters trust TV and online media the most. And older veterans and military retirees trust TV and newspapers the most. 

How politically active are military personnel?

In general, the military is very politically active. Over 4 of 5 active duty, reserves, and post 9/11 veterans have participated in political activity in the last 12 months. Active duty and reserves are more likely than civilian counterparts to engage in fundraising, to write to or call a politician, to write to an editor of a newspaper or magazine, or to call a live radio show or TV show. 

Post 9/11 veterans are more likely than their civilian counterparts to sign a petition, to engage in fundraising to write to a politician, to attend a public or town hall meeting, or to be an active member of a group that influences public policy.

And spouses, older veterans, and retirees are even more politically active. Spouses are more likely to engage in fundraising, to write to a politician or an active member of a group that influences public policy, to write to an editor of a newspaper or magazine, or to call a live radio or TV show.

Of all the military personnel, veterans and retirees are the most likely to be very knowledgeable about politics and to be influential on their friends and families. About 30% of veterans reported having a great deal of knowledge and experience about politics, and 16% shared that their family and friends ask for and trust their political advice.

To win the military vote, you need to understand the military community. At Refuel, we have worked with the military for over 30 years and invested in proprietary research on their media consumption, lifestyle, beliefs, and more. Contact us today to learn how to reach your military target audience.

Liz Carmo

Liz Carmo brings over 14 years of experience with Refuel Agency. While an expert in all Refuel’s core markets, she quickly formed a passion for the military division. Liz has been a pioneer in the military space with building our partner relationships that allow us to keep competitive pricing and top industry knowledge. Her passion towards the military market, creativity, and deep consumer insights help Refuel’s key brands grow their business.