Why more than half of American presidential candidates have been military veterans—and why it matters
Why Veterans Run
Military Service in American Presidential Elections, 17892016
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Jeremy M. Teigen
The assumptions that military service helps candidates attract votes—while lacking it harms a candidate's chances—has been an article of faith since the electoral coronation of George Washington in 1789. Perhaps the most compelling fact driving the perception that military service helps win votes is the large number of veterans who have held public office. Some candidates even exaggerate their military service to persuade voters. However, sufficient counter-examples undermine the idea that military veterans enjoy an advantage when seeking political office.
Jeremy M. Teigen is Professor of Political Science at Ramapo College in New Jersey.