Tag Archives: 1930s

Public opinion, 1935-1946

Working in Memorial Library again today. Today’s interesting book picked off the shelf is Public Opinion, 1935-1946, a 1200-page compendium of public opinion polls conducted around the world on every topic imaginable. And it looks like the full text is online!

A few nuggets:

  • In January 1937, 70% of Americans thought it had been a mistake for the U.S. to enter World War I. In November 1940, only 39% thought so.
  • In May 1940, voters were asked “Would you like to see the Republicans nominate Roosevelt for President if the Democrats would agree to accept the choice of the Republicans for Vice-President?” Now that’s a piece of stunt nomination the likes of which we’d never see today. Also, in July 1940, we have this note on a national election poll: “Southern Negroes were omitted in this tabulation because their franchise is largely ineffective.”
  • In April 1941, U.S. opinion was strongly against entering the war: 21% in favor, 79% opposed. But there were very big differences between states — in Wisconsin (home, then and now, of a substantial German population) only 14% favored war, while in Florida 35% wanted in.
  • In March 1938, Americans favored the right of teachers to spank kids in school by 53%-44%. By August 1946, it had flipped to 35% in favor and 61% opposed. Parents who had themselves been spanked as kids were only a little more pro-spanking; 41% supported spanking in school, 56% opposed.
  • In March 1938, 82% of Americans supported amending the Constitution to prohibit child labor. It turns out that The Child Labor Amendment is still outstanding and would be adopted if ratified by just 10 more states. Who knew?
  • In March 1942, 66% of Americans agreed that “most people can be trusted” and 25% disagreed. (I couldn’t resist looking up more recent numbers: by 1964 trust was ahead 77-21, but in 1983 just 57% thought most people could be trusted, with 40% saying no.)
  • In June 1937, 63% of Americans favored taxing chain stores at a higher rate than independent stores.
  • In November 1945, 58% of Americans felt that “Jewish people in the United States have too much influence in the business world,” up from 50% in January 1943.
  • In March 1944, 27% of Americans had raised chickens during the previous year.
  • When asked in 1946 which President was greatest: FDR, Washington, Lincoln, or Wilson, Americans gave Roosevelt 39%, putting him ahead of Lincoln (37%), Washington (15%), and Wilson (5%).
  • In April 1946, 67% of Germans disagreed with the statement “The experience of enduring bombing and shellfire steels a man’s character.”
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