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Chapter 8:


The Department of Defense (DoD) routinely collects information concerning youth attitudes toward the military in support of military recruiting. Prior to the year 2000, one measure used to assess the likelihood that young adults would enter the military was the Youth Attitude Tracking Study or YATS. In 2001, DoD replaced the annual YATS with quick turn-around polls of young people. The intended purpose of these polls is to collect a more continuous flow of information on attitudes and opinions about the military, to identify those aspects of service that encourage or discourage enlistment, and to learn how current events affect those attitudes.[Footnote 1] DoD also obtains general and specialized market research information from various private-sector market research firms, including Roper, Yankelovich, and Teenage Research Unlimited. In addition, in 2001, DoD implemented its first Advertising Tracking Study to provide fast, continuous feedback on how well the various advertising campaigns were working. This effort tracked all DoD advertising and broad-scale attitudes toward the military. The results are quantifiable measures of the effects of marketing activities on the attitudes of respondents toward military service. In sum, a variety of market research instruments are used to inform recruiting practice and policy. These tools allow the Department of Defense to assess the potential impact of policy decisions, labor market conditions, and national and global events on recruiting.

Youth Polls

Youth polls are conducted approximately three times a year. Poll samples include about 2,000 youth ages 15- to 21-years-old. Data are available from polls conducted in March, July, and October of 2001. Propensity can be measured in several ways: unaided (e.g., "What do you think you might be doing once you finish high school?"), aided (e.g., "How likely is it that you will be serving in the military in the next few years? Definitely, Probably, Probably Not, or Definitely Not?"), or as a combination of questions. In this chapter, propensity results reflect a composite measure created from the highest level of reported propensity across the four Services. That is, individuals are asked "How likely are you to join the...Army/Navy/Marine Corps/Air Force?" A related question included in the Youth Poll is: "Before we talked today, had you ever considered the possibility of joining the military? Never Thought About It, Gave It Some Consideration, or Gave It Serious Consideration?" Additional questions cover topics such as knowledge of the military, feelings of patriotism, and comparisons between military and civilian jobs. Following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, questions addressing terrorism and the military were included in Youth Poll 3. For example, respondents were asked: "Does the situation related to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon make you more likely or does it make you less likely to consider joining the military as an option?" and "Does the situation related to the military action in the Middle East against terrorists make you more likely or less likely to consider joining the military as an option?" Because of sample sizes and reporting, we can present Youth Poll data overall and by gender, but comparisons by age, race/ethnicity, geographic region, or school grades are not possible.

Advertising Tracking Study

Tracking Study is essentially a daily opinion poll. Approximately 17 young men and women, 15- to 21-years old, are interviewed each day. Military propensity questions have been included since March 2001. On September 13, 2001, the following question was added to the youth Advertising Tracking Study: "Does the current situation related to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon make you more likely or does it make you less likely to consider the military as an option?"


[Footnote 1]  Sellman, W.S. U.S. Military Recruiting Initiatives. Keynote address to the International Workshop on Military Recruitment and Retention in the 21st Century. Sponsored by the Belgian Defense Staff, Royal Netherlands Army, and U.S. Office of Naval Research (The Hague, The Netherlands, 2001). [back to paragraph]


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