White nationalists like those who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August pose a greater danger to America’s national security than conflicts in which the U.S. is fighting the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS, in Iraq and Syria, say U.S. troops.
In a new poll of 1,131 active-duty soldiers conducted by The Military Times after the August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, 30 percent of respondents ranked white nationalists as a more significant danger to U.S. security than the Syria and Iraq conflicts. They put the danger from those at 27 percent and 17 percent respectively.
The Charlottesville rally drew members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says can be fairly described as white nationalists. The SPLC’s research shows hate groups in the U.S. grew 17 percent from 2014 to 2016.
Of those who responded to the poll, more than 60 percent said they support calling in the National Guard or reserves to control rallies like Charlottesville, which left one counterprotester dead and more than 19 injured.
Some respondents also had concerns about white nationalists in the ranks of the military. Close to 42 percent of the nonwhite servicemen and women who took part in the poll said they had witnessed white nationalists in America’s military. Just 18 percent of white respondents said the same.
Those who answered the poll were 76 percent white, 8 percent Hispanic, 9 percent African-American, 2 percent Asian, and 5 percent were made up of other ethnicities.
Almost 5 percent of respondents complained that civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter, which advocates for an end to police brutality against African-Americans, were not included among the poll’s choices of threats to national security.
There was also pushback in the poll against singling out white nationalists—who advocate for America to become a whites-only nation and for whites to hold a majority in the U.S.—as a danger.
“White nationalism is not a terrorist organization,” an anonymous Navy commander responded. Another anonymous Air Force staff sergeant asked the pollsters, “You do realize white nationalists and racists are two totally different types of people?”