The U.S. public solidly backs the decision to allow women to serve in combat units, but is unsure whether the change is major or minor, according to a poll released on Tuesday.
According to the survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Washington Post, 66% said they support allowing women in the military to serve in ground units that engage in close combat, compared with 26% who said they oppose the changed policy announced last week by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. The breakdown is about the same from a Washington Post/ABC poll two years ago.
But the public split evenly at 47% between those who thought the policy was a major or minor change, according to the survey.
The poll was conducted among 1,005 adults between Thursday and Sunday -- after Panetta announced the new policy. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Panetta said Wednesday that the military would end the ban, a move that had been expected in part because of the growing number of women who have already served in combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new policy opens up thousands of front-line positions for women and likely increases their opportunities for advancement.