Poll: Marine Corps still most prestigious military branch


Photo: Sgt. Ryan Carpenter

The results are in.

According to a new Gallup Poll, Americans overwhelmingly believe that the Marine Corps is the most prestigious branch of the armed services. No word on whether it’s the dress blues, the tough image, or the elite missions undertaken by the likes of Force Recon and MARSOC, but with 47 percent of the vote, the Marines polled nearly three times higher for prestige than the next runner-up, the U.S. Air Force.

As you can see from the Gallup chart below, the Marine Corps has been slowly increasing its edge over the other services in terms of prestige, though the Corps has held the top spot in public opinion since 2001.

Data and chart via Gallup

In terms of importance, though, the Army, the nation’s largest branch, maintains its lead in the polls.

According to Gallup, 26 percent of Americans think the Army is most important for security, while the Marine Corps, with 19 percent of the vote, slipped from second to third place behind the Air Force this year.

Data and chart via Gallup

Until 2004, Americans believed the Air Force was the most important branch. Gallup speculates that the Army leads now because its significance in the last  decade of ground wars.

“This shift in opinion most likely stemmed from the heavy ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and early 2010s,” Gallup officials Dave Goldich and Art Swift write. “The Army, the largest branch of the military, has likely improved its standing in the U.S. public’s eyes as a result of the role it played in these conflicts.”

At the end of the day, of course, it’s one team, one fight–but how would you rank the services? Why do you think the Marines continue to lead in prestige?


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  1. Because I am a blue star mother with a son and daughter serving in the Marine Corps! OOHRAH, Semper Fidelis. God bless them all– but especially my Marines!

  2. Mario Maradiaga on

    Why the Prestige you ask? Because you can join the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force but you must become a Marine. We earn the privilege of being called Marine! Semper Fi to all who served and continue to serve!

  3. I may be a soldier but there is nothing but respect for the Marines. Banter is a part of our life and we always give sailors(marines), Chair Force, Seamen and tugboat patrol (I guess they are a branch) shit but at the end of the day..it is about respect. At the end of the day…..HOOAH

  4. And among the best of our Marines are FMF Corpsmen. When the blood flows and the call goes out, “Corpsmen UP!” they’re there. Thanks, Doc.

    (Keep in mind, too, that the one U.S. Coast Guardsman to earn the Medal of Honor did it saving Marines from an ambush on Guadalcanal.)

  5. just some guy on

    Well said Hooah, I believe, being a recent EASd Marine, that the USMC is actually on the decline personally, public image is important but what is going on with our commandant is just a sign of how bitchy our Corps is becoming. Something must be done, in my opinion, before there is no USMC left for people to strive to emulate. But hey I still love the Corps, just not all of the top brass. Keep kicking ass backbone of the corps, Enlisted. We’re pulling for ya.

  6. What war did the Air Force win? What hill, town, city, did the Air Force take and hold? The Air Force is a support agency, and it’s not much at that. The Army, Navy, Marines, we all have our own aircraft, close air support, and air lift for equipment, and troops. So if the Air Force did not exist what would we miss?

  7. Sgt. USMC, V33 on

    The prestige is the highest in my Corps because we strive to maintain and carry on that prestige. There is no finer fighting force in the world. I am an 0311/0321 and have conducted many joint missions with all branches. The discipline Marines have is most noticeable at first. Followed by appearance and professionalism during operations. As for the comment made by MIKE, the Air Force dominated and won the first Gulf War, also known as the 100 hr war, hands down!!! They are a fine group and I am a proud son of a retired Zoomie.

  8. Henry Chinery, III on

    The Air Force has declined because it used to be the Backbone of NORAD and was tasked with nuclear strike capabilities as a deterrent to war with the Russians. With the disintigration of the USSR and advances like cruise missles and SDI, the main source of their prestige is all but gone. If I knew someone who wanted to serve but didn’t want to have a good chance of being in combat, I would advise them to join the Air Force or the Navy. If they really want to risk their lives, join the Marine Corps or the Army in time of conflict. Semper Fi!

  9. John B. Tillson II (USMC April 1965-Nov. 1968) (Vietnam 1966-67-68) on

    Interesting read, but when it come down to it, we are all brothers and sisters at arms and will fight and if necessary, die, for our country. Prestige is just a word the fat cats, rich and famous made up so they could feel like they were better than everyone else. I love the Marine Corps because I am a Marine, but I also love and respect all service men and women, no matter which branch of the service they are in.

  10. I raised 2 Marines and am therefore, very partial. However, that being said, all of our branches work as a team. Everyone brings something to the table. Respect for all!

  11. When people in the other services are asked about their service, no one says I’m a sailor, or solider, they say I’m in the Navy, or in the Army. No walks up and asked them are you sailor?, No they say, are you in the Navy?

    but when it comes to a Marine, it’s simple. Are you a Marine? Yes sir or maam is the answer. Or what service are you in? I’m a Marine is the usual answer, Earned the title, never given.

  12. I believe that it should be the navy as #1 due to the marines being a department of the navy. And this bull about earning the right to be called a marine. That is every branch. I worked my ass off and earnd the right to be a united states sailor.

  13. When given any lawful order, they will execute until the mission is accomplished. Huge brotherhood who has each others back no matter where they are.

  14. Marines are built from the ground up to emulate Honor, Courage and Commitment. It truly is a brotherhood and sisterhood, and no other service is built with that Esprit De Corps. Why are Marines the most prestigious? We are built that way.. from the lowly newly shaven recruit, to the saltiest veteran. Once you have earned the title, you are FOREVER a Marine.

  15. Because our only neighbors are both friendly and weaker than us, we don’t really have any specific need of ground forces for purely defensive operations. Naval and air supremacy will keep the homeland safe.

  16. Mike: “The Army, Navy, Marines, we all have our own aircraft, close air support, and air lift for equipment, and troops. So if the Air Force did not exist what would we miss?”

    Heavy airlift, most of our aerial refuelers, low-observable aircraft, bombers, armed UAVs, communications satellites, the GPS constellation…

    Also, congrats Marines!

  17. NYD we all know everyone has to earn their title whether it be Marine, sailor, soldier, whatever the af uses. That being said you don’t honestly think you worked as hard as every Marine did to earn that title to you? I have friends in every branch but at the end of the day they all respect what it took to earn the title Marine and do not place themselves on that same level. Marines have earned their place as most prestigious thru what it takes to get there. 1 in every 5 still does not make it thru basic. 13 weeks of hell followed by either SOI or 4 weeks of combat school for non infantry. Last word i had they were considering making basic 17 weeks to get rid of MCT. Trust me we understand you earned your title as sailor but your ass didn’t work nearly as hard to earn your title. People call us arrogant because of our attitude about being the best but when its true is it really arrogance? We appreciate all of our brothers in arms even when we’re having a bit of fun at their expense but Marines do it all with less. Trust me brother i’ve been to all the basic’s thru my job and none hold a candle anywhere near what the Corps does.

  18. NYD….The Marine Corps is a Department of the Navy…..”The MEN’S Department” and as far as working your ass off…..NO OTHER BRANCH has a Bootcamp even remotely as tough and challenging than the Marine Corps and no other branch spends the amount of time on marksmanship than the Corps. “UNITED STATES MARINE, THE WORLDS GREATEST WARRIORS ACCORDING TO HISTORY”

  19. Serve (x) amount of years in the Navy, then join the Marine Corps. You will go to boot camp and you may graduate as a E-3 Lance Corporal… If you excel. Serve (x) years in the Marine Corps and join the Navy/Army. You will NOT go to boot camp and are likely to be promoted upon the successful transition. The only exception is the Air Force… They seem to think we’re too crazy and only offer us a few positions. I can speak to this because I graduated boot with a sailor that had been in the Navy for 7 years. He was blasted like every other recruit and then some.

    The Marine Corps isn’t just a branch of service – It is a way of life.

    Sergeant, 0311

  20. ‘a bitched up Army talking Navy lingo”–that’s a compliment to us Devil Dogs…any perceived negativism brought to us will be turned into a compliment by us. Call it egotism call it being cocky….I call it being confident

  21. ….and capitalize the word, ‘Marine’, that’s another honor we have earned. And, while you are at it….do the same for Corpsman.

  22. Hahaha! To the guy who said earning the title marine is bull! They basically handed you everything in the navy. Yeah the marine corps is apart of the navy but we are the few the proud. I bet you didn’t want to join the corps because it was to hard you POG

  23. Former Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Amos summed it up the best I think…

    What does the Eagle, Globe and Anchor stand for? The globe represents readiness to serve world wide, the Eagle represents the USA and the Anchor represents the founding of the corps in 1775, acknowledging the naval tradition of the marines and their continual service within the Department of the Navy…

    The view of the Eagle Globe and Anchor (unofficially) represents the service of the Marines operating on land, sea and air but why? The Army covers land wars, They have the budget and the logistics to sustain themselves in wars… Ok…. The Navy has the ships, they win battles at sea and deliver heavy payload on any target… Very well…. and the Air Force’s sole purpose is to take the fight to the sky’s, making sure bombs and missiles from enemy aircraft don’t land in your living room or backyard…. So what do we need the Marines for? The people of America want the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps is America’s 9-1-1, The Marines are ready to bloody the nose of anyone who threaten Americans… The Marine Corps wins battles so the Army, Navy and Airforce can win the wars… The Marine Corps represents everyone in America through professionalism, respect and appearance. The American people love it’s Marines, so lets not let them down.

    –Now this is my interpretation of what he said to the Marines at camp pendleton based on my memory… I wouldn’t quote anything from this as what he said but this is pretty damn close.–

  24. There are brave men in every branch. SeALs, Special Forces/Delta and PJ’s and I salute them all. But every Marine has the respect of well, let’s let an Ar,y general speak.

    “I can never again see a UNITED STATES MARINE without experiencing a feeling of reverence.” GEN.JOHNSON, U.S. ARMY

    There are plenty more where that came from.

    The US Air Force Chief-of-Staff would never be called — Airman

    The Chief-of-Naval Operations would never be called — Sailor

    The Commanding General of The US Army would never be called — Soldier

    BUT the Commandant of the Marine Corps would be proud to be called a — United States Marine

  25. NYD, Really? You had to work your ass off to earn the title sailor? Really? I bet you rode the short bus, didn’t you?

  26. Mike, Mike Says:

    May 23rd, 2014 at 10:36 am

    What war did the Air Force win? What hill, town, city, did the Air Force take and hold? The Air Force is a support agency, and it’s not much at that. The Army, Navy, Marines, we all have our own aircraft, close air support, and air lift for equipment, and troops. So if the Air Force did not exist what would we miss?

    Ever been in the shit? We would miss air supremacy and no matter what anyone says us grunts LOVE air power! A-10, Spectre gunship, and all the rest.

    Semper Fi!

  27. Simply said.You can’t switch from the Army, Navy, or Air Force and decide you want to be a Marine. You must go thru Marine Corps boot camp first. Good luck in you future endeavors. My platoon at boot camp started with 96 and dropped to 56 after the IST. Not everyone was made to hack it. It’s not easy. Because your drill instructor rips apart everything you know and builds you back up into what they want you to be. It instills the Esprit de Corps!! Making you want to be better, never give up, and always put your country first. Honor, Courage, and Committment…

  28. I’m a Marine and very proud of that. I think we are the best. But, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard are also excellent. They fulfill different missions than the Corps. Happy Memorial Day to all wearing and those who have worn the uniform.

  29. Happy Memorial Day to all and Semper Fi to my Brothers. Well this has become a decidedly Marine rant so hopefully I can add some balance. This long war has brought me ground assignments with elements from all 3 of our sister services, coaster – I haven’t see you and know little about you.
    Each of units I served beside served their nation with honor and pride and their sacrifices were noble. That said what sets our Corps apart is something absolutely magical. At 23 years of service I struggle to keep pace with the younger Marines. The ethos instilled in me through a challenging recruit training, years of training that flirted with challenging me and killing us all, and the memory of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to give me the honor of wearing our uniform just one more day.gets me up and keeps me moving.
    There is nothing sacred about the Marine Corps. What is special is the commitment one Marine has for his or her Brothers and our fierce, perhaps fanatical loyalty to our Nation and to persecuting any who attempt to harm her. I wish all of the other services well as we each perform our functions in a joint environment but it is still our expressed mission to kick some ass.

  30. I’m a Marine and I believe that polls like this are like reading your horoscope. They are all fun and games but really don’t matter in the sense that they are purely based on perception. Most civilians have no impact, no idea about what each branch does. I had no clue until I joined at 17. To say that people could view the Corps as the most prestigious because of Recon or MARSOC is all bs. That stament is pure ignorant speculation. Ask 10 civilians what Recon or MARSOC is and I guarantee you they won’t know what it is. Furthermore, to ask them which branch they believe to be the most important is a little more fair of a question but still insignificant because again of their lack of expertise. These surveys are like asking people which is more prestigious and more important between a cardiologist, a neurologist, an orthopedic surgeon, and a general practioner. They’re all doctors but practice different aspects of medicine. In the end it is all perception and of no major importance. Give us a real story to read.

  31. Because we are the fiercest fighting force in America. Children from other countries think we have to kill our families to become Marines that just says it all. No better friend no worse enemy.

  32. 1/5 Corpsman on

    Lot of trash talk going on here….I used to do it myself, especially towards the Air Force, but I was a Corpsman who had the privilege of serving my time with the Marines, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but the air force did our medivacs in Afghanistan, and between them, the army and the Brits, the Air Force pj’s would fly in hell or high water, wether it was hot or not and for that I have nothing but respect.

  33. I was a Marine on recruiting duty and from experience, the kids who choose the other branches tend to be looking for tangible benefits like pay and education. Perhaps they develop some intangibles along the way like patriotism and pride, but that was not their personalities. The kids who choose the Marine Corps are looking for a challenge and the pride of becoming a Marine. The funny thing is, we all get the same benefits. I think most of them know this, but use it as a crutch rather than just saying they are afraid of the challenge. I do not believe there is an individual in another branch that would not prefer to be called Marine. The courage is what separates us. And for the Navy Corpsman, thanks you for what you do, but you are not Marines! You are navy!

  34. As a former Army Infantryman – Grunt, I too have lots of experience with Marines…some good and some not so good, but mostly good. At the end of the day, I’m tremendously proud of their contributions and have enormous respect for their relevance. I also respect the other sister services as well and embrace the necessity of Joint and Combined Operations. However, the Marines sometimes convey their bravado in a manner that communicates uninformed arrogance and contempt. To the GySGT/former recruiter, you are way off base suggesting anecdotally that others service members aren’t equally as patriotic or as dedicated. When was the last time you did a HALO with my buddies at Bragg or spent weeks submerged in an Ohio Class submarine? Or, when did you last assist in uploading 30K Tons of ordnance into the belly of a B52H? Just wondering, you suggested that the others are also short on courage, have you ever heard of Randy Shughart or Gary Gordon?

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