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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Support War Less Than Public

A recent study shows that about 75 percent of college undergraduates trust the military's judgement ability.

The survey, which was conducted by Harvard University's Institute of Politics, also found that the percentage of students who trust the federal government almost doubled in the past year -- up from 36 percent in 2000 to 60 percent.

Trust for the armed forces was even stronger -- 75 percent of students said they trust the military to "do the right thing."

Despite the high numbers, college students' support of military action remains lower than the general public's.

According to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month, 86 percent of Americans support U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

Harvard senior Erin Ashwell, who helped conduct the study, said one of the findings that surprised her was the number of students considering serving in the military. Ashwell said 71 percent of male students said they would serve if the draft was reinstated and they were selected.

"I had no idea if people were going to have a 'rally around the flag' approach or if there was going to be a sort of Vietnam-like reaction," Ashwell said.

"People have a renewed faith in government, but it's not a blind faith," she added. "For the first time, we're seeing how government really affects our lives."

But Catherine Lutz, a UNC anthropology professor who helped organize recent campus teach-ins examining alternatives to war, said she is "extremely suspicious" about the results of such polls. Poll questions are often phrased to generate a specific answer and usually downplay the possible human casualties of military action, she said.

Lutz said students are usually less eager to support wars than the general population because "they're the ones whose bodies will be on the line in the draft."

Lutz added that younger people also tend to be more independent-minded than others. "The younger you are, the less socialized you are into society's norms."

UNC students have expressed conflicting views on the issue and have spoken out both for and against war at recent area protests.

Chad Love, a junior who recently served eight years as a U.S. Army Ranger, said he supports military action and believes President Bush is handling the situation well.

"I think it's appropriate," he said. "I think it's called for. I think it's right.

"We got slapped in the face. We definitely need to retaliate."

But UNC junior Joanne Badr said that although she might support the use of ground troops if a clear and feasible goal was in sight, she does not support the air strikes because of their potential for widespread damage.

"Bin Laden does not represent even one iota of the people of Afghanistan," Badr added. "If we're just fighting to fight, then we're not going to get anything done -- except for killing innocent people."

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