Americans divided over whether US is the top military power

Americans are displaying the most drastic split in decades about whether the U.S. remains the top military power in the world, according to the results of a Gallup poll released this month.

The number of Americans who believe the country is not the top fighting force is at 49 percent, a 23-year high, and up from 38 percent in 2015. Those surveyed were not asked to list the country they believed to have the best military, if not America.

The respondents who said the U.S. is still the supreme war power fell to a 23-year low, at 49 percent. That’s down from 59 percent in 2015.

Despite the extreme swing in perception of U.S. might, the importance of having a first-rate military appears no less important than it’s ever been to most Americans. Among those surveyed, 67 percent said the U.S. being No. 1 in the world was important, in line with previous years, and just a one-point drop from 2015.

Meanwhile, for the first time since February 2001, a majority of those polled felt the U.S. spent too little on national defense and the military, though only by a small margin: 37 percent felt spending was too little, 32 percent said it was too much and 27 percent said it was about right. Among Republicans, 66 percent said the nation was spending too little on the military, compared to just 20 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of Independents. Majorities of Democrats (45 percent) and Independents (39 percent) said the U.S. spent too much on the military.

The Gallup poll surveyed 1,021 adults nationwide aged 18 and older by telephone. The poll had a sampling error of +/- 4 percentage points.