|Discussion The implications
of this pilot study are wide reaching. According to the data collected, people have a high
opinion and good perception of the military. All but one of the participants had no
affiliation with the military, and thus must have obtained information to form that
positive opinion from somewhere other than first-hand experience or through association
with the military people. Participants felt that movies with a military theme were
occasionally to rarely realistic.
Information for public opinion is being gathered from somewhere, either through the media or an extraneous variable not studied by this experiment. These findings warrant more research. A small percentage of the participants did identify some sources for changing public opinion, but a more pinpointed and reliable scale would yield more accurate results.
As noted in earlier sections, the military is facing its biggest manning issues in the past 50 years. Certainly, the number of people needed to run a more technology-reliant military are less than would be needed for manual machines, but it is still rather startling to find that encounters with military recruiters fail to change impressions about the military. If recruiting liaisons are not able to sway public opinion, then who will persuade new recruits to obligate service? If the military had access to complete data and information about how people formed their impressions and support for the military, then the U.S. Armed Forces would be able to better target the recruiting audience.
While the actual data and measurement did not yield the anticipated results, this is not viewed as a setback. Because this is the first study of its kind in a new arena of research, there will be many setbacks before the field of communication can move forward with enlightenment in this topic. Researchers must systematically attack this line of research until more data is available and a valid and reliable instrument is designed. The study is limited in that its original design was as a pilot study that aims to investigate how to study a topic. Future suggestions for research design in this area include a pre-test/post-test design with exposure to movie clips featuring the military, and the creation of a valid and reliable measurement.
The mere findings of significance and correlation indicate that this avenue of research is a viable field for communication inquiry. Research concerning military-themed movies and public opinion is important to public affairs practitioners on a very real level. As implied earlier, military public affairs must directly anticipate and interpret public opinion in order to operate and create messages. A viable tool in that public affairs task is to understand how that public opinion is formed. If there is indeed a causal relationship, then it would behoove military public affairs offices to constantly analyze the uncontrolled messages paraded across the silver screen.
This line of research is important to field public affairs offices everywhere. For example, all except one of the survey participants had seen the movie Top Gun. A better understanding of how people formed their opinions of the military based on this film alone would help with recruiting and creating positive, realistic messages about the military. Knowing that movies do or do not help people form their opinions about the military can help military public affairs professionals focus their energies. If a movie portrays the military in an unrealistic manner and it has been proven that movies have little effect on opinion formation, then public affairs practitioners can save resources trying to combat these images. However, if there is a link between movie portrayals of the military and public opinion, public affairs practitioners can focus their attention in formulating communication plans and messages to counter the movie's impact. These messages would help the public form opinions based on fact versus conjecture. Public opinion is important to the military because people vote for members of Congress. The Congress members stand on military affairs committees that directly affect the military's budget and ability to operate. People who have all the facts will be in a better position to make the appropriate decisions for its military. Basing their information on what is portrayed in the movies is not the best way to do that.