Contrary to British military policy, a majority of the public say women should be allowed to fight in frontline combat
The issue of women in combat was raised earlier this year, when US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the American military would start allowing women to serve in frontline combat units for the first time. Then, Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy called on the UK government to "look again" at its own ban on women in close combat.
New YouGov research reveals the public agrees: it's time for a change. 64% say women should be allowed in roles that involve "closing with and killing the enemy", compared to 27% who say they shouldn't be.
Lifting the ban is supported by majorities of voters from all major parties and by men and women almost equally: 64% of men and 63% of women want female soldiers to be permitted into combat roles.
YouGov research has also shed some light on public feelings about young people in the armed forces, days after two human rights groups called on the British military to stop recruiting under-18s. Current policy allows the army to recruit teenagers between 16 and 18 years of age, but prohibits soldiers under 18 from going to war zones.
More than six in ten (61%) Britons would agree with the campaigners: 49% say 18 should be the minimum age for joining and another 12% say it should be even higher. Only a third (34%) support allowing under-18s to join the army.
However, an overwhelming majority (88%) agree that soldiers under 18 should be kept out of war zones, as is military policy.