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Sequestration Cuts Influencing Presidential Picks of Military Voters, First Command Reports

First Command Financial Behavior Index® identifies automatic federal budget cuts as important election issue for middle-class servicemembers

FORT WORTH, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Men and women in uniform are more likely than other Americans to focus on the looming threat of automatic federal budget cuts as a deciding issue in the presidential election.

The First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals that 76 percent of middle-class military families (senior NCOs and commissioned officers in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) who are aware of the proposed federal budget cuts known as sequestration say it is an extremely or very important issue in choosing who to vote for in the presidential election. This compares to 51 percent of the general population of middle-class families.

Sequestration is part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which calls for $1.2 trillion in lowered federal spending – half from defense and half from nondefense. Lawmakers have until the end of this year to reach an agreement that would avert the automatic cuts, which would reduce Department of Defense spending by almost $55 billion.

“While the budget sequester is an important election issue for many middle-class voters, the proposed reduction in military spending means it is a uniquely personal one for those who have made the military their career,” said Navy Vice Admiral (Ret.) Barry M. Costello of the First Command Military Advisory Board. “This issue is generating considerable financial uncertainty and concern among our men and women in uniform. Our survey findings suggest that the majority of middle-income servicemembers expect to cast their votes for the presidential candidate who they feel best understands and is most committed to resolving this critical issue that directly affects their families and careers.”

Career concerns are particularly high among men and women in uniform. Recent Index findings reveal that two thirds of middle-class military families are worried about the possibility of involuntary separation. An early forced exit from the armed forces is seen as a serious financial threat, with almost nine out of ten survey respondents hoping to qualify for a traditional military retirement by completing at least 20 years of service.

“In my discussions with active-duty servicemembers, I continue to hear concerns about how their families might be impacted by military budget cuts in today’s still-struggling economy,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (Ret.) Charles “Skip” W. Bowen III, who serves with Costello and other retired senior flag officers and NCOs on the Military Advisory Board. “They are worried for veterans facing higher than average unemployment, and they are nervous about how an early, involuntary end to their military career might affect their own financial futures. Clearly those worries will be on their minds as they cast their votes for the next president.”

The Index findings suggest that Mitt Romney may be the candidate that middle-class servicemembers are most likely to support. When surveyed in late September, military respondents showed a clear preference for the challenger over Barack Obama (56 percent versus 31 percent). In contrast, middle-class members of the general population leaned toward the incumbent (51 percent versus 39 percent).

Support for Romney is even stronger among servicemembers who say sequestration is an extremely or very important issue in choosing who to vote for in the presidential election. The Index reveals that 63 percent of this subgroup support Romney. Among members of the general population who place the greatest importance on sequestration, the choice is a statistical tie (46 percent for Romney and 45 percent for Obama).

In other election-related findings, the Index reveals that neither candidate receives high marks on leadership qualities. Overall, the majority of military and general population households rate Obama and Romney as average to very poor on all leadership qualities. Among military households, Romney exceeds Obama on leadership related to the U.S. economy, military, job creation and U.S. debt reduction. And among the general population, Obama exceeds Romney on foreign policy, healthcare, education and military.

First Command surveyed consumers on their voting intentions as part of its ongoing research into how defense downsizing and the continuing economic turmoil is affecting the financial lives of middle-class military families.

"Military families are understandably concerned about the changes that are coming their way," said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command. "At a time when economic concerns continue to weigh heavily on many Americans, servicemembers and their families are facing the added worries of how their lives will be impacted by sequestration, defense cuts and the broader reshaping of the U.S. military."

About the First Command Military Advisory Board

The First Command Military Advisory Board is a select group of senior leaders from the nation’s military services. Consisting of retired senior flag officers and NCOs, the board is committed to providing independent perspective and advice on important issues affecting the financial readiness of military families. The current slate of members includes Gen. (Ret.) Dan K. McNeill (USA); Sgt. Maj. of the Army (Ret.) Jack L. Tilley (USA); Lt. Gen. (Ret.) John F. Sattler (USMC); Vice Adm. (Ret.) Barry M. Costello (USN); Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (Ret.) Joe R. Campa (USN); Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Glen W. “Wally” Moorhead III (USAF); Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) Kenneth J. McQuiston (USAF); Vice Adm.(Ret.) Jody A. Breckenridge (USCG); and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (Ret.) Charles “Skip” W. Bowen III (USCG). For more information, visit http://www.firstcommand.com/military-advisory-board.htm.

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. www.firstcommand.com/research

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command

First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Bank and First Command Financial Planning, assist American families in their efforts to build wealth, reduce debt and pursue their lifetime financial goals and dreams—focusing on consumer behavior as the first and most powerful determinant of results. Through knowledgeable advice and coaching of the financial behaviors conducive to success, First Command Financial Advisors have built trustworthy, lasting relationships with hundreds of thousands of client families since 1958.

First Command Financial Services, Inc., is the parent of First Command Financial Planning, Inc. (Member SIPC, FINRA), First Command Insurance Services, Inc. and First Command Bank. Financial planning services and investment products, including securities, are offered by First Command Financial Planning, Inc. Insurance products and services are offered by First Command Insurance Services, Inc. in all states except Montana, where as required by law, insurance products and services are offered by First Command Financial Services, Inc. (a separate Montana domestic corporation). Banking products and services are offered by First Command Bank. In certain states, as required by law, First Command Insurance Services, Inc. does business as a separate domestic corporation. Securities products are not FDIC insured, have no bank guarantee and may lose value. A financial plan, by itself, cannot assure that retirement or other financial goals will be met.

First Command Financial Services
Mark Leach, 817-569-2419
Media Relations
msleach@firstcommand.com
www.firstcommand.com

Source: First Command Financial Services