US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leads his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by 19 points—55 per cent to 36 per cent—among military and veteran voters, according to a poll issued on Wednesday.
The two candidates will each spend a half-hour on Wednesday night talking about their military readiness at an event for veterans and active service members, Xinhua news agency reported.
A sizeable number of these voters say they would not be confident in Clinton or Trump's ability to be an effective commander-in-chief of the nation's military, though a slight majority would be confident in Trump (53 per cent), the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll finds.
Overall, 47 per cent of voters who are currently serving or have previously served in the US military said they would not be confident in Trump's ability to serve as an effective commander-in-chief of the US military.
Among all registered voters, 59 per cent would not be confident in his ability to serve as commander-in-chief of the military and just 39 per cent would feel confident, the poll shows.
In contrast, just 35 per cent of military and veteran voters would feel confident in former secretary of state Clinton's ability to serve as commander-in-chief. A large majority (64 per cent) would not be confident in her ability.
Among voters overall, a smaller majority (52 per cent) said they would not be confident in her ability to serve. Just 46 per cent said they would be confident.
Among voters overall, Trump does slightly better than Clinton (40 per cent to 39 per cent) on the handling of veterans issues. Among military and veteran voters, he does even better (53 per cent to 28 per cent).
Though Trump comfortably earns the support of military-affiliated voters overall, Clinton is perceived more favourably on the use of nuclear weapons (44 per cent) while a quarter of them said they would not trust either her or Trump to handle these issues, the poll shows.
Also on Wednesday, Clinton's campaign announced that 95 retired generals and admirals have endorsed her presidential bid, one day after a group of 88 retired generals and admirals signed an open letter backing Trump to reverse the "hollowing out" of the US military.
The Obama administration has been criticised for overseeing a shrinking of the Pentagon's budget—a cumulative 15 per cent since 2011, according to a Politifact report.
The report attributes the reduced military budget partly to the removal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and partly to sequestration: across-the-board cuts that automatically came into place when both parties failed to strike a spending deal in Congress in 2011.
However, Trump's advantage among military voters is nothing new, local analysts say, noting the military's political leanings have swayed to the right in recent decades, Xinhua news agency added.
In an informal survey by the Military Times earlier in 2016, 54 per cent of active duty troops, reservists, and National Guardsmen chose Trump over the former Secretary of State.
The latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll was conducted online from August 29 through September 4 among 32,226 registered voters, including 3,358 who have previously served or are currently serving in the US military.