H.D. Herrick

Gallup Poll Spreads War Propaganda

(September 1939)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 69, 13 September 1939, pp. 1 & 
Transcription/HTML Markup: 2016 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2016; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Has the American Institute of Public Opinion – the Gallup poll – already been mobilized for the Roosevelt war drive?

The Institute, which is headed by Dr. Gallup, announced Sept. 9 that a new survey of public opinion was undertaken in view of the fact that Representative Ludlow has announced his intention of re-introducing at the coming special session of Congress his resolution for a referendum of the people before Congress can declare war.

Whereas in 1936 and 1937 it was found that over 70 percent favored the referendum proposal, and six months ago it was reported by the Gallup survey that the percentage had dropped to 61% as a result of Roosevelt’s propaganda drive against it, today the proposal appears with a majority of only 51 percent, according to the Gallup figures. To be sure, this is still a majority of the people, but the Gallup news release (New York Times, September 10) emphasizes the decline in the vote.

A Different Question!

(1) The question which was posed in the latest survey was worded as follows: “Should the Constitution be changed to require a national vote before Congress could draft men for war overseas?”

Although neither the Gallup news release nor the Times comments gives the slightest indication to the contrary, this question is NOT the Ludlow proposal for a war referendum but a DIFFERENT proposal. The Ludlow resolution calls for a national vote before the U.S. may enter into warfare. The Gallup question asks about a vote on the draft, assuming that the U.S. is already in the war.

Says the news release: “The question itself is based on the proposal of General Hugh Johnson ...” Johnson made this proposal for a vote on the draft as a substitute for a vote on entering war, which he opposed. Representative Ham Fish was another who counterposed the draft-referendum to a war referendum. Yet the Gallup release and the Times blandly compare the percentages on the two proposals, without mentioning that they are different and that they have evoked different line-ups even in the past.

Objections Don’t Apply

(2) The significance of this sleight-of-hand is easily demonstrated. The Institute’s release mentioned that the strongest argument given by those opposed to the proposal, among the people who were canvassed, was “that such a vote would consume valuable time in a period of crisis ...” From the point of view of the average man, this objection has many times more validity as an argument against a referendum on the draft after the U.S. was already in the war, than as an objection to a referendum on whether the U.S. should enter the war at all. Obviously, once war is declared, every minute counts for the mobilization of the war machine, but the same reasoning would not apply to the vote on whether we should enter the war.

(3) The question itself is a fake. While a constitutional amendment would be necessary to put the Ludlow resolution into effect, IT WOULD NOT BE NEEDED FOR A NATIONAL VOTE ON THE DRAFT. The Constitution specifically puts the war-making power in the hands of Congress, but a simple decision by the Congress is enough to effect a draft referendum.

Were Negroes Consulted?

(4) The figures given by the Institute on regional distribution of the vote raise further questions. The principal factor in driving the vote for the proposal down was the South. Here, 63 percent were against the referendum idea and only 37 percent for. This is way out of line with the other regions. While the Institute has made no statement on its methods of sampling the Southern population, one may wonder whether they are like the Southern states’ methods in handling electoral votes. How much weight was given to the Negro population in the South, and the sharecroppers? Or are we to believe that the Southern Negroes are more inclined to trust the Congress’ discretion in drafting them for war than are the white workers in the North?

The region with the next highest percentage of anti-referendum votes is given as the West, traditionally a region of isolationist sentiment. Even New England gave returns more favorable to the referendum proposal.

If Dr. Gallup has enlisted in the War Board’s propaganda section (and we cannot doubt that they would appreciate his services), he should cease posing as an impartial recorder of the public’s pulse.


Last updated on: 18 March 2016