WASHINGTON (AFP) – Americans strongly support allowing women in uniform to serve in combat, despite US military rules that ban women from combat units, a new poll showed on Thursday.
The Quinnipac University Polling Institute's survey said 67 percent of voters favored permitting women "to serve in ground units that engage in close combat" with 29 percent opposed.
Both male and female voters backed the change by similar margins, with support strongest among younger Americans, according to the poll, carried out March 22-28.
Among voters 18 to 34 years old, the poll showed support for lifting the ban at 81 percent, while Americans over the age of 55 backed the change 55-38 percent.
"Americans have become accustomed to women in the armed forces, and apparently are ready for them to serve in combat units. It will be interesting to see how the public feels if, God forbid, there is combat with large numbers of women casualties," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement.
The survey results came as US commanders take a second look at the prohibition, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- which lack clearly defined front lines -- have thrust female soldiers into serious fighting situations.
The US Army's chief of staff last year told lawmakers that it was time to review the rules preventing women serving in combat given the experience of female troops in the wars.
The American military last year decided to lift the ban on women serving in submarines, an all-male bastion that naval officers once insisted could never change.
The poll surveyed 2,069 registered voters and carried a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.