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World War II. The Nature of Public Opinion. I. Two Theories of Public Opinion. The Moody Public People are uninformed and uninterested in politics. Public Perceives High Levels of Aid. Public Perceives High Levels of Aid.

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World War II


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world war ii

World War II

The Nature of Public Opinion

i two theories of public opinion
I. Two Theories of Public Opinion
  • The Moody Public
    • People are uninformed and uninterested in politics
actual aid is low as of budget allows politicians to frame issue as either cut x or give x
Actual Aid Is Low as % of Budget – Allows Politicians to Frame Issue as either “Cut X%” or “Give X%”
i two theories of public opinion6
I. Two Theories of Public Opinion
  • The Moody Public
    • People are uninformed and uninterested in politics
    • Public opinion is fickle and subject to dramatic, irrational shifts
i two theories of public opinion9
I. Two Theories of Public Opinion
  • The Moody Public
    • People are uninformed and uninterested in politics
    • Public opinion is fickle and subject to dramatic, irrational shifts
    • The public is easily manipulated by elites in government or the media
i two theories of public opinion11
I. Two Theories of Public Opinion
  • The Moody Public
    • People are uninformed and uninterested in politics
    • Public opinion is fickle and subject to dramatic, irrational shifts
    • The public is easily manipulated by elites in government or the media
  • The Rational Public
    • Public opinion is nuanced
i two theories of public opinion13
I. Two Theories of Public Opinion
  • The Moody Public
    • People are uninformed and uninterested in politics
    • Public opinion is fickle and subject to dramatic, irrational shifts
    • The public is easily manipulated by elites in government or the media
  • The Rational Public
    • Public opinion is nuanced
    • Public opinion is stable
i two theories of public opinion24
I. Two Theories of Public Opinion
  • The Moody Public
    • People are uninformed and uninterested in politics
    • Public opinion is fickle and subject to dramatic, irrational shifts
    • The public is easily manipulated by elites in government or the media
  • The Rational Public
    • Public opinion is nuanced
    • Public opinion is stable
    • Public opinion is seldom manipulated
ii world war ii a test
II. World War II: A Test
  • Historical Overview
    • Germany attacks most of Europe. US remains neutral, but ships war material to Britain and hunts German subs.
    • Japan attacks China. US imposes sanctions, including embargoes of steel, rubber, and oil.
    • Japan, seeking to end sanctions by seizing British and French colonies, attacks US fleet to prevent intervention and then invades Southeast Asia.
    • Germany declares war on US, partly due to US anti-submarine efforts and partly due to desire for help against Russia.
    • Allies insist on unconditional surrender, focus on Germany first. Germany occupied; atomic bombs dropped on Japan, which surrenders.
    • More than 400,000 Americans die.
a the conventional view
A. The Conventional View

1. Public knew little about the wars in Europe and Asia and cared even less.

a the conventional view28
A. The Conventional View

1. Public knew little about the wars in Europe and Asia and cared even less.

2. Public irrationally opposed paying for a strong national defense to deter any attack

a the conventional view30
A. The Conventional View

1. Public knew little about the wars in Europe and Asia and cared even less.

2. Public irrationally opposed paying for a strong national defense to deter any attack

3. Public was isolationist until Pearl Harbor, then was shocked into support for war

a the conventional view33
A. The Conventional View

1. Public knew little about the wars in Europe and Asia and cared even less.

2. Public irrationally opposed paying for a strong national defense to deter any attack

3. Public was isolationist until Pearl Harbor, then was shocked into support for war

4. Public opinion was very racist and anti-Semitic, which caused the US Government to firebomb Japanese civilians and ignore the Holocaust.

b evidence
B. Evidence
  • What did the American public know?
  • October 1938 – The Munich Agreement
  • Do you believe that England and France did the best thing in giving in to Germany instead of going to war?
    • Yes 59%
  • Do you think that this settlement will result in peace for a number of years or in a greater possibility of war?
    • Greater possibility of war 60%
  • November 1938: Hitler says he has no more territorial ambitions in Europe. Do you believe him?
    • No 92%
public expected to fight in europe
Public expected to fight in Europe

If there is (a war between any of the big European countries) do you think the United States will be drawn into it?

slide37
Do you think the United States will go into the war in Europe some time before it is over, or do you think we will stay out of the war?
public expected to fight japan
Public expected to fight Japan
  • December 5-7 1941 (before Pearl Harbor): Will the US go to war with Japan in the near future?
    • Yes 52%
    • No 27%
    • No Opinion 21%
poor understanding of european politics
Poor understanding of European politics
  • April 27, 1940: If Italy goes into the war, which side do you think she will join – Germany or England and France?
      • No opinion 33%
      • Opinion:
      • Allies 45%
      • Germany 55%
2 was the public irrationally anti military before world war ii
2. Was the public irrationally anti-military before World War II?

Should the United States require every able-bodied young man of 20 years old to serve in the army, navy, or the air forces for one year?

3 how isolationist was the american public
3. How isolationist was the American public?
  • Anti-war sentiment: strong until Pearl Harbor.
3 how isolationist was the american public44
3. How isolationist was the American public?
  • Anti-war sentiment: strong until Pearl Harbor.
  • Public exhibited some degree of strategic calculation
strategic thinking germany
Strategic Thinking: Germany

Which of these two things do you think is the more important for the United States to try to do – keep out of the war ourselves, or help England win, even at the risk of getting into the war?

late nov 1941 which is more important keeping the us out of war or defeating germany
Late Nov 1941: Which is more important, keeping the US out of war, or defeating Germany?
  • Keep Out 32%
  • Defeat Germany 68%
strategic thinking japan
Strategic thinking: Japan

Should the US take steps now to prevent Japan from becoming more powerful, even if it risks war?

wartime belief in the holocaust
Wartime Belief in the Holocaust
  • December 1944: Do you believe the stories that the Germans have murdered many people in concentration camps are true or not true?
        • Not true 12%
        • No opinion 12%
        • True 76%
    • Of those who said true: Nobody knows, of course, how many may have been murdered, but what would be your best guess?
          • 100,000 or less 27%
          • 100,000 to 500,000 5%
          • 500,000 to 1,000,000 1%
          • 1,000,000 6%
          • 2,000,000 to 6,000,000 8%
          • 6,000,000 or more 4%
          • Unwilling to guess 25%
    • US government estimates were > 3,000,000 in Poland camps alone.
c racism and blame enemy leaders or enemy people
c. Racism and Blame: Enemy leaders or enemy people?

June 1944: Which of the following statements comes closest to how you feel, on the whole, about the people who live in ______?

c racism and blame enemy leaders or enemy people56
c. Racism and Blame: Enemy leaders or enemy people?

June-Aug 1944: In the war with ______ do you feel our chief enemy is the ________ people as a whole or the __________ government?

Who is more cruel at heart, Germans or Japanese?

Germans 18%

Japanese 82%

slide57

d. Strategy: Racism or Rationality? i. Threat Assessment

December 17, 1941: Which country is the greater threat to the future of the United States, Germany or Japan?
  • Germany 64%
  • Japan 15%
  • Equal Threats 15%
  • No opinion 6%
ii willingness to target civilians
ii. Willingness to target civilians
  • April 1938: Do you think all nations should agree not to bomb civilians in cities during wartime?
    • Yes 91%
july 1944 if you had your say how would we treat the people who live in germany after this war
July 1944: If you had your say, how would we treat the people who live in Germany after this war?
  • Lenient treatment, active assistance, re-education, etc: 65%
  • Strict supervision, probationary period, isolation, disarmament: 42%
  • Severe measures, punitive action, torture, extermination: 8%
december 1944 what do you think we should do with japan as a country after the war
December 1944: What do you think we should do with Japan as a country after the war?
  • Re-educate, rehabilitiate: 8%
  • Supervise and control: 28%
  • Destroy as a political entity, break up: 33%
  • Kill all Japanese: 13%
slide62
November 1944: If it means an earlier end to the war, would you approve or disapprove of the Allies using poison gas against ______ cities?
september 1945 use of the atomic bomb against japan
September 1945: Use of the atomic bomb against Japan
  • Should not have used bomb: 5%
  • Should have conducted demonstration first: 14%
  • Should have used two bombs on cities: 54%
  • Should have quickly used many more of them before Japan had a chance to surrender: 23%
internment of japanese americans
Internment of Japanese-Americans
  • December 1942: Do you think the Japanese who were moved from the Pacific Coast should be allowed to return to the Pacific Coast when the war is over?
    • Would allow all to return 35%
    • Only Japanese who are citizens 26%
    • Would allow none to return 17%
    • Undecided 22%
c revisiting the world war ii example
C. Revisiting the World War II Example
  • Public was informed about German and Japanese expansion, and was willing to risk war to oppose this expansion
  • Public opposed entering war against Germany when probability of victory was lower but supported it when probability of victory was higher.
  • Public supported defense spending as threat increased
  • Public never believed the US could ignore the rest of the world
  • Public was indeed racist and anti-Semitic, but generally maintained a strategic attitude to fighting the war. Racism  internment of Japanese-Americans and hate for ordinary Japanese people.