As GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama prepare for Monday's foreign policy debate, a new poll shows that members of the armed forces view veterans' unemployment as their top concern, and a majority think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Eighty-eight percent of military members think Iraq and Afghanistan war vet joblessness is a problem, according to the poll from non-partisan advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America and obtained by POLITICO.
Military voters ranked unemployment as the biggest issue facing them and their families, with 28 percent saying finding jobs after service is the biggest issue. That's 10 percentage points more than the second biggest issue: accessing care for service-related injuries (18 percent). The remainder stated other options, including deployment pressures and cuts to the forces and transition assistance.
And 29 percent of military voters polled think the country is headed in the right direction. Among veterans, that percentage shrinks to 25 percent.
The poll also surveyed military veterans and found their single biggest issue is the economy, with 34 percent naming it the top priority. The second biggest issue is deficit spending (21 percent), followed by maintaining benefits (11 percent) and getting a job (10 percent). The other issues were cuts to the military, the housing market, paying for college or other options, each less than 10 percent.
Meanwhile, 41 percent ranked the economy as the greatest threat to national security, followed by foreign terror groups (32 percent); traditional powers (31 percent); debt (30 percent); cuts to the military (27 percent) and cyberterror (15 percent). For that question, veterans selected more than one response, so totals are combined.
The group did not ask those who were surveyed whether they planned to vote for Obama or Romney.
The poll, which has a 3.5 percent margin of error, was conducted with 800 military members and veterans between Sept. 27 and Oct. 1.