Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Gary Johnson are running neck-and-neck among American military personnel, according to a new survey that showcases bleak opinions about the two major party candidates in the race.
A poll conducted by the Military Times and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families this month found that, among U.S. military personnel, Trump leads the field narrowly with 37.6 percent of the vote while Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, follows close behind with 36.5 percent.
The margin of error of the poll is 2 percentage points, meaning that the candidates are statistically tied.
Following in a distant third among military members is Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, with 16.3 percent support. Green Party candidate Jill Stein captures 1.2 percent, remaining third-party and write-in choices receive a combined 3.2 percent, and 5.2 percent of respondents do not plan to vote given the choices.
Conducted between Sept. 8 and 15, the survey was taken beginning the same day that Johnson wondered during a televised MSNBC interview about the conflict in Syria, "What is Aleppo?"
The poll also began one day after both major party candidates participated in the "Commander in Chief" forum hosted by NBC News in New York City, during which Trump reiterated praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Military personnel do not have high hopes for either Clinton or Trump when it comes to their abilities to handle national security. According to the survey, only 18 percent of military personnel say Clinton’s ability to handle national security is good or very good, while 27 percent say the same of Trump.
Ninety percent of the respondents said they oppose Clinton’s use of personal email to conduct official business at the State Department. Roughly 60 percent oppose Trump’s handling of criticism from the Gold Star Khan family.
American service members are also widely dissatisfied with Clinton and Trump as the presidential picks for both major parties. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents reported being dissatisfied with Clinton as the Democratic nominee, and 66 percent said so of Trump as the Republican nominee.
An unnamed Army captain and Johnson supporter who spoke to the Military Times described Trump and Clinton as the "worst" two major party candidates that the United States could have.
When broken down by individual services, the poll shows that Johnson scores highest among naval personnel with 42.3 percent, winning by a significant 14-point margin. Trump fares best among Marine Corps members, winning 50.4 percent to Johnson’s 26.7 percent.
Among all services, Clinton ranks in third place.
The survey also shows a considerable divide between the opinions of enlisted military personnel and military officers.
Among military officers, who direct daily operations and implement policy, Johnson leads with 38.6 percent, followed by Clinton with 27.9 percent and Trump with 26.0 percent. Among enlisted personnel, Trump captures 39.8 percent support and Johnson 36.1 percent, while Clinton trails behind with 14.1 percent.