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Are the Armed Forces Understood and Supported by the Public? A View from the United Kingdom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-713
Number of pages26
JournalArmed Forces and Society
Issue number4
Early online date12 Dec 2014
E-pub ahead of print12 Dec 2014
Published1 Oct 2015


King's Authors


Despite the importance of public opinion in supporting the military and their missions, little is known about how the UK public perceive their Armed Forces. This article reviews and evaluates available research and opinion poll data of public attitudes toward the UK military and situates the evidence within the civil–military gap literature. Current evidence suggests public regard for the UK Armed Forces is high despite low levels of support for the Iraq and Afghanistan missions. Public understanding of the work of the Armed Forces is limited. Nonetheless, the United Kingdom’s long history of military deployments may have given the public an “intuitive understanding” of the basic realities of the military compared with other European states. There are indications of differences in attitudes between the UK Armed Forces and wider British society, but no firm evidence that the civil–military “gap” has become a “gulf” as claimed by some military leaders.

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