Nearly half of voters fear the U.S. government could use military training exercises like the upcoming operation known as Jade Helm 15 to impose greater federal control over states, says a new Rasmussen poll.
Yet almost two-thirds still support having realistic, large-scale military training maneuvers in their states, says the national telephone poll, taken May 7-10 amid reporting about the eight-week joint exercises that are scheduled to begin July 15 and spread across parts of Texas and neighboring states.
The findings come as elected officials, primarily in Texas, have come under fire for their responses to a widely circulated theory that Jade Helm 15 would precede imposition of martial law or an attempt to take away Texans' gun rights.
"Why Are Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz Pandering to Believers in a Stupid Conspiracy Theory about the U.S. Military?" was the headline
on a derisive column by Rich Lowry of the National Review published Sunday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott initially told concerned residents he would dispatch the state's National Guard
to monitor the exercises. He has since turned to reassuring Texans they have nothing to fear, according to reports.
"It's so important to understand that there probably is no state in America that is more deeply connected to the military or honors the military more," Abbott said over the weekend. "And my office has been in communication with military at multiple levels, and we have the greatest assurances that these are normal military operations and they're going to work out just fine."
Yet Rasmussen Reports affirms the fears of many Americans. A "surprising number" of voters — 45 percent — remain wary of armed federal troops, including Special Operations forces such as the Green Berets and Navy SEALs, fanning out across their states this summer.
The survey shows that 56 percent of voters who consider themselves as conservative are concerned that the government will use the training exercises to impose federal control over some states. Fifty percent of voters identified as Republicans hold the same belief.
"This level of concern is perhaps less surprising given that 62% of Americans believe there is too much government power and too little individual freedom in the United States today," The Rasmussen report says, referencing a previous survey.
Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican running for president, for his part validated the fears
in an interview last week, saying they arose in part from six years of a federal government under President Barack Obama "disrespecting the liberty of its citizens."
The survey found some support for this idea, Rasmussen reports. Asked, "How concerned are you that the government will use U.S. military training operations to impose greater control over some states?" 45 percent said "concerned," including 19 percent who replied "very concerned."
"This level of concern is perhaps less surprising given that 62% of Americans believe there is too much government power and too little individual freedom in the United States today," Rasmussen reports.
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