Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Public Opinion and the Korean War

I’ve been working on a lesson plan for the NEH on the subject of the Korean War, and I was interested to find at the Eisenhower Presidential Library site this poll data summarizing the public’s views on the Korean war in early 1953. I think that most today would deem this a worthwhile war, inasmuch as it blocked the outright aggression of North Korea, and sent a message that such aggression would not be tolerated in the future. However, as these poll number shows, this was not the attitude held by most Americans at the time. When asked on four different occasions, between October 1952 and April 1953, whether the war had been worth fighting, a clear majority said no in every case.

Discussions - 5 Comments

As I note with my students you can learn a little something about American attitudes toward wars from the names of their battles. Battle of the Bulge and Argonne Forest are at least a little evocative and perhaps even give off a wiff of romance--misguided or not--in the struggle. Korea gave as Heartbreak Ridge and Pork Chop Hill.

Yes, indeed, all the more reason why public opinion should be disregarded, particularly when it shows opposition to a war. Had the term "focus groups" been coined by ’53 ?

Interestingly, there were no communist-directed "peace marches" in the early 1950s. And if you look closely at the poll data, you’ll also find that most Americans did not favor unilateral withdrawal from Korea, but rather escalation through the bombing of China and the "unleashing" of Chiang Kai-shek’s forces in Taiwan.


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