Conference on the Power of Free Inquiry and Cold War International History
Seeing Red: The Cold War and American Public Opinion
by John Kenneth White
Department of Politics, Catholic University of America
Life is lived forward, but understood backward.
September 1968. The presidential race had begun in earnest. The major party nominees, Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey and Republican Richard M. Nixon, were energetically making their appeals for public support. But behind closed doors another "campaign" was taking place. The power brokers in the Kremlin were taking their measure of the candidates, trying to determine which one could best manage the superpower relationship. It was a difficult decision. Only a month before the Soviet Union had invaded Czechoslovakia, ending Alexander Dubcek's brief experiment with "socialism with a human face." After Dubcek's ouster, Communist party chief Leonid Brezhnev enunciated the "Brezhnev Doctrine," the guise under which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics could correct its fraternal neighbors by military invasion whenever they deviated from Moscow's hard-line. Both the Czech invasion and the Brezhnev Doctrine met with widespread condemnation. Oleg Kalugin, the KGB station chief in Washington, D.C., found his informants were keeping mum. Instead of recruiting spies through ideological solidarity, large sums of cold hard cash were needed to lure greedy Americans into snooping for Moscow--as it was later disclosed in the spy cases involving John Walker and Aldrich Ames. In his view, American-Soviet relations were at an impasse and something "drastic" was required to break the deadlock. Note 1
That drastic step was electing Richard Nixon president. While Kalugin thought Nixon "unpredictable," he also believed that Nixon's long-time anti-communism might be the needed catalyst "to improve relations between our countries, for no one would ever dare accuse Nixon of being soft on communism.Note 2" Cloaked with a veil of secrecy, Kalugin and his KGB colleagues spun a web of intrigue. They established a back-channel to the Nixon campaign, using HarvardUniversity professor Henry Kissinger as an intermediary. Through a series of letters addressed to Kissinger, Nixon was informed that Brezhnev and the KGB would welcome his election.
But Kalugin did not speak for a unified Soviet leadership. The Soviet ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, already had done some politicking on his own. Believing that Hubert Humphrey would never initiate World War III and fearing Nixon was too staunch an anti-communist (and a scoundrel besides), Dobrynin told Humphrey that the decision-makers in the Politburo looked favorably upon him and he offered to help the cash-starved Democratic campaign. Humphrey refused, saying it was "more than enough for him to have Moscow's good wishes.Note 3" After the ballots were counted and Nixon finished a hair's breadth ahead of Humphrey, the Kremlin sent a secret missive via Kissinger congratulating Nixon. Remembering the pro-Humphrey views of the Soviet ambassador, the KGB never told him about the letter. Days later an "official" communique from the Soviet embassy offered Moscow's best wishes to the president-elect. Note 4
The point of this story is not to argue that these behind-the-scene actions affected the outcome of the 1968 contest. The Vietnam War and public disillusionment with Lyndon Johnson took care of that. Rather, it is to assert that with the end of the Cold War the scales have been removed from our eyes. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, we have been learning much about what transpired on both sides of the Iron Curtain. For example, a recent search of the Soviet archives produced a 1987 plea from U.S. Communist Party chief Gus Hall to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev: "I don't like to raise the question of finances, but when the wolf' is at the door, one is forced to cry out. Note 5" Gorbachev ordered KGB couriers to stuff their suitcases with $2 million in cash. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, Americans learned in 1994 that thousands of their fellow citizens had been treated as human guinea pigs during the Cold War by their own government. Milton Stadt, the son of one of these unwitting subjects, described how his mother had been hospitalized for a duodenal ulcer and found herself in a U.S. government-sponsored lab where, he claimed, "these monsters were." He remembered: "My mother, Jan Stadt, had a number HP-8. She was injected with plutonium on March 9, 1946. She was forty-one years old, and I was eleven years old at the time. My mother and father were never told or asked for any kind of consent to have this done to them. Note 6" Jan Stadt subsequently died from the "non-therapeutic" radiation experiments performed upon her.
Reflecting on the Cold War years later, schoolteacher John Driscoll recalled: "It seems surreal now. Every summer, when I heard [sic] heat lightning over the city and the sky would light up, I was convinced that it was all over. My whole childhood was built on the notion the Soviets were the real threat.Note 7" Like John Driscoll, I, too, am a baby-boomer. Born on October 10, 1952, the Cold War shaped my childhood and spanned most of my adult life, as the front-page headlines from the New York Times on that day illustrate: "South Korean Unit, Bayoneting Reds, Regains Key Peak"; "Work Completed on U.N. Buildings"; "Stevenson Taunts Rival for Backing McCarthy, Dirksen"; and "U.S. to Give France $525,000,000 in Aid and Hints at More. Note 8" Like so many of my generation, I accepted the Cold War as a fact of life. But the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the cascade of events that resulted in the demise of the Soviet Union two years later caught nearly everyone unawares. For example, a June 1989 poll found two-thirds disagreed with the proposition that "communism is dying out.Note 9" But Soviet-style communism did die--except in China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea--and with it expired the political order and public attitudes that were profoundly influenced and shaped by the Cold War.
The Structure of American Public Opinion During the Cold War
In 1949, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., wrote of the Cold War: "In its essence this crisis is internal.Note 10" Although Schlesinger believed that the external communist threat was real, he believed that its real danger was the fear it engendered in the minds of most Americans. Schlesinger proved prescient, as and the resultant politics of fear prompted many to contrast their own ideological thinking with communism. As Richard Nixon once observed, "People respond more to fear than love. They don't teach you that in Sunday school, but it's true." Note 11
Fear is a powerful political weapon, especially in such a highly ideological nation as the United States. Political Scientist Louis Hartz once hypothesized that Americans were so ideologically straight-jacketed that a philosophy that did not espouse individualism, equality of opportunity, and freedom would be seen as alien. Note 12 Alexis de Tocqueville held a similar view, writing in Democracy in America (1835): "I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America." Note 13 In 1848, Lewis Cass, the Democratic nominee for president, told a Tammany Hall audience that he was "opposed to all the isms of the day. . .to communism and socialism, and Mormonism; to polygamy and concubinage, and to all the humbugs that are now rising among us." Note 14
As the decades passed and with no end of the Cold War in sight, communism became the antithesis to the American creed. In 1964, the World Book Encyclopedia drew a bright line between communism and American-style democracy: "In a democratic country, the government rules by consent of the people. In a communist country, the dictator rules by force and stays in power by force. A democratic government tries to act in a way that will benefit the people. . .Under communism, the interests of the government always come first. . . .Communism violently opposes democracy and the democratic way of life." Note 15 These views were shared by the vast majority of Americans. According to a 1983 survey, 92 percent said that in a communist country "you only hear news the government wants you to hear"; 91 percent agreed that "if you speak your mind, you risk going to jail"; 84 percent rejected the notion that life for the average communist "is pretty much the same as in the United States"; 80 percent said "you can't move or relocate without permission from the government"; 75 percent maintained that "you always have to be afraid of the police"; 75 percent agreed that "you can't pick your own job or change jobs"; 69 percent believed "there is no freedom of religion"; 65 percent disagreed that "there's less stress and tension" for the "average" communist; 61 percent said "you can't get a fair trial"; 60 percent rejected the idea that "men and women are treated equally." Note 16 Thus, when Ronald Reagan dubbed the Soviet Union the "evil empire," most Americans (and many Russians) agreed with him. Note 17
The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research
Given the preceding discussion, it is no surprise that American hostility toward communism was an enduring feature of the Cold War. Public opinion polling from the 1930s until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 documents the public antipathy toward communism, even as the Cold War alternatively waxed hot and cold. The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, located on the campus at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, was the place where I went to find much of the data that formed Still Seeing Red. Note 18 Founded in 1947, the Roper Center holds the world's largest archive of survey data. Polling organizations, both public and private, regularly contribute to the Center's archive. These organizations include ABC News, Associated Press, CBS News, Cambridge Reports, CNN, the Daniel Yankelovich Group, the Gallup Organization, Gordon S. Black and Associates (a Republican-oriented polling firm), Greenberg Research (a Democratic firm that initially served as President Clinton's polltaker), Louis Harris and Associates, Peter D. Hart Research Associates (a long-standing Democratic firm that did the polling for Walter Mondale in 1984), The Los Angeles Times, Luntz Research Companies (a Republican-based firm that has done polling for Newt Gingrich), Marttila and Kiley (a Democratic firm), Mellman and Lazarus (a Democratic firm), NBC News, National Opinion Research Center, Newsweek, The New York Times, Opinion Research Corporation, Penn and Schoen (a Democratic firm), The Pew Center for the People and the Press, Public Opinion Strategies, Roper Starch Worldwide, Scripps-Howard News Service, The Tarrance Group (a Republican firm), Time, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, Voter Research and Surveys (a multi-media effort that conducts election day exit polls), The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Wirthlin Worldwide (Richard Wirthlin was the poll-taker for President Reagan), and Zogby Group International (a Republican-based firm).
These and other polls have been integrated into POLL, an online source for public opinion information. The POLL database is a question-level retrieval system that permits direct access to the Roper Center's holdings. Containing more than 250,000 questions asked in the United States from 1936 to the present, POLL offers complete question-wordings and full survey-level citation, such as the organizations conducting and sponsoring the work, interview dates, and sample sizes. Access to questions can be obtained by key subject areas or by using key words and phrases. In 1995, POLL integrated a new cross-tab dimension to the existing system. Today more than 40,000 questions from selected surveys conducted since 1990 are available with complete major subgroup breakdowns (e.g., gender, race, age, education, income, region, political party preference and political ideology).
For Still Seeing Red, I wanted to see all questions that pertained to "communism" or "communist(s)", "Russia", "Russian," "Soviet," or "Soviet Union," and "communism and Russia"or various combinations of the words cited above. The number of questions by decade is reflected in Table 1.
Summary Analysis of Data Reviewed for Still Seeing Red
(Figures in parentheses indicate percentage of the total database.)
Total Questions in POLL Database
Questions on topic of communism or including the words "communism" or "communist(s)"
Questions on the topic of Russia or including the words "Russia," "Russian," "Soviet," or "Soviet Union"
Questions reflecting a search combining Column B and Column C
|1930s||3,174||35 (1.1%)||52 (1.6%)||82 (2.6%)|
|1940s||14,192||390 (2.7%)||758 (5.3%)||1,050 (7.4%)|
|1950s||9,762||816 (8.4%)||704 (7.2%)||1,387 (14.2%)|
|1960s||9,157||314 (3.4%)||286 (3.1%)||526 (5.7%)|
|1970s||37,087||474 (1.3%)||899 (2.4%)||1, 296 (3.5%)|
|1980s||94,318||673 (0.7%)||3,881 (4.1%)||4,340 (4.6%)|
|1990s||112,409||150 (0.1%)||1,364 (1.2%)||1,438 (1.3%)|
|Total||280,099||2,852 (1.0%)||7,944 (2.8%)||10,119 (3.6%)|
A Sampling of Early Public Opinion Polling on Communism
Table 2 is a sampling of some of the earliest soundings of American anti-communism from 1937-1949. As these results suggest, polltakers quickly found a unanimity of opinion about communism: it was bad--so bad that sometimes Americans were willing to sacrifice sacred principles in order to retain ideological solidarity against an "unseen"enemy at home. This consensus persisted even while Americans and Russians fought side-by-side against Adolf Hitler and Nazism during World War II.
American Attitudes Toward Communism, Selected Gallup Surveys, 1937-1949.
|Text of Question||Public Response|
|"If you had to choose between Fascism and Communism which would you choose?" (Gallup poll, April 6, 1937)||Percentage answering "Fascism", 61
Percentage answering "Communism", 39
|"Which do you think is worse, Communism or
Fascism?"(Gallup poll, June 21, 1938)
|Percentage answering "Fascism", 42
Percentage answering "Communism", 58
|"Do you believe in freedom of speech?"
(Gallup poll, June 1938)
|Percentage answering "yes", 97|
|"Do you believe in it to the extent of allowing communists
to hold meetings and express their views in this
community?" (Gallup poll, June 1938)
|Percentage answering "yes", 38|
|"Would you be in favor of doing away with the
Communist Party in this country?" (Gallup poll, July 1940)
|Percentage answering "YES!", 55
Percentage answering "yes", 25
Percentage answering "NO!", 8
Percentage answering "no", 12
|"If it were up to you to decide, what would you do
about the Communist Party in this country?"
(Gallup poll, April 10-15, 1941)
|Percentage answering "take repressive measures", 64
Percentage answering "put them in prison", 5
Percentage answering "do nothing", 8
|"Should Americans who are members of the Communist Party be forbidden to hold civil service jobs or should they have the same rights as others to hold government jobs?" (Gallup poll, March 28 - April 2, 1947)||Percentage answering "should be forbidden", 67
Percentage answering "should have same rights", 19
|"Do you think a man can be a good Christian and at the same time be a member of the Communist Party?" (Gallup poll, July 22-28, 1949)||Percentage answering "yes", 11
Percentage answering "no", 77
The public hatred of anything that smacked of being labeled communist persisted during the 1950s. When the Korean War erupted in 1950, Americans were so hostile toward communism that they were willing to put their fellow citizens who might belong to the U.S. Communist party into interment camps if necessary. As Table 3 shows, a mere one percent stood firm by the Bill of Rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
Attitudes Toward Communists in the United States, 1950 (in percentages).
Put them in internment camps...................................22
Send them out of the United States, exile them..........15
Send them to Russia.................................................13
Shoot them, hang them.............................................13
Watch them, make them register.................................4
Nothing, everyone entitled to freedom of thought.........1
Source: Gallup poll, July 30-August 4, 1950. Text of question: "What do you think should be done about members of the Communist Party in the United States in the event we get into a war with Russia?"
*Note: Percentages total more than 100 because some respondents gave more than one answer.
Even as late as the 1980s when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed a new era of glasnost, Americans applauded even as they continued to blame communism for many of their country's problems. A 1989 Gallup poll found 52 percent held the communists responsible "for a lot of the unrest in the United States today." Note 19 Of course, the power of the U.S. Communist Party was never evidenced in massive numbers of proletarians rising in protest against capitalists. Rather, the fear of communism was mostly in our collective consciousness.
The Gallup Data, 1936-1991
The Gallup polling data illustrates the consistency of public thinking on the subject of communism and provides an interesting case study. Gallup is selected because it is one of the oldest public opinion research firms in the United States. The first question Gallup asked on the subject was on April 4, 1936: "Should schools teach the facts about communism and socialism?" The results were yes, teach the facts, 62 percent; no, don't teach the facts, 38 percent.Note 20 During the 1930s, many of the questions asked about communism had to do with the Dies Committee (a precursor to the House Committee on Un-American Activities). In 1939, 83 percent had heard or read about the Dies Committee.Note 21 Of these, 52 percent thought it was more important for the committee to investigate communist activities in this country; only 25 percent wanted it to investigate Nazi activities in the U.S. Note 22
In the 1940s, questions about communism in the Gallup polls revolved around the following issues:
- (1) Should members of the U.S. Communist Party have "equal time" on the radio or be
permitted to obtain government employment?
- (2) What were the suspected ties between communists and union leaders and the
willingness of both to perpetuate crippling labor strikes?
- (3) Do members of the U.S. Communist Party exhibit greater loyalty to their native
country or to Moscow?
- (4) What should be done about members of the U.S. Communist Party in this
country--especially whether or not Congress should require members of the U.S. Communist
Party to register with the Justice Department?
- (5) How did the House Committee on Un-American Activities conduct itself with regard
to the so-called "Hollywood Ten"?
- (6) What should the United States do about Mao Zedong's communist takeover in China and could such a takeover have been prevented?
A sampling of public opinion in each of these six areas reveals a remarkable degree of consistency. For example, two-thirds of Americans opposed allowing communists equal time on the radio. A typical result was obtained to this September 1940 question: "Should Communist party candidates be allowed the same amount of free time on the radio as the Democratic and Republican candidates?" Yes, 22 percent; no, 67 percent; no opinion, 11 percent. Note 23 A July 1946 poll found 69 percent opposed to any member of the U.S. Communist Party, or anyone professing to be a communist, holding a civil service job.Note 24 A March 1949 survey found 87 percent stating that all communists should be immediately removed from industries that would be vital to any wartime effort. Note 25 Americans applied a similar standard to the academic community. A July 1949 poll asked the following: "The University of California recently said it would require all its teachers to take an oath that they are not communists. Some other colleges oppose this idea because they feel it is an insult to teachers to require them to take such an oath. How do you, yourself, feel about this?" Seventy-two percent agreed with the oath, just 22 percent were opposed, and 6 percent had no opinion. Note 26
Americans also saw a close connection between labor unrest and the communists. An April 1941 Gallup poll found 78 percent stating that "communists in unions are responsible for the strikes in defense industries"Note 27 and an October 1941 Gallup poll reported that 61 percent of the respondents believed that labor union leaders were communists.Note 28 Not surprisingly, a January 1949 found 82 percent opposed to the idea of changing the Taft-Hartley Act which required officers of labor unions to swear that they are not communists before they can plead their case before the National Labor Relations Board. Note 29
As in the 1930s, Americans harbored strong doubts about the loyalties of members of the U.S. Communist Party. A July 1946 poll found 48 percent saying that members of the U.S. Communist Party placed their first allegiances to Russia, 23 percent thought they were loyal U.S. citizens, and 29 percent had no opinion. Note 30 However, with the fall of Eastern Europe and China to communism and the emergence of the Alger Hiss Case, opinion on this subject hardened. An April 1947 poll found 61 percent stating that American communists were loyal to Russia first, 18 percent thought they remained loyal to America, and 21 percent had no opinion.Note 31 An October 1947 survey found 62 percent agreeing with the statement: "Communists in this country actually take orders from Moscow." Note 32 An August 1948 poll found 73 percent stating that communists in this country "would work against the United States if we should get into a war against Russia."Note 33
During the 1940s, Americans continued to hold harsh opinions about what, if anything, should be done with communists in this country. An April 1941 Gallup poll found 64 percent saying that "repressive measures" should be used; 5 percent wanted them placed in prison; just 8 percent said "do nothing."Note 34 A June 1946 survey evoked even harsher responses: 36 percent said "kill or imprison them", 16 percent wanted to "curb them or make them inactive", 7 percent said "do nothing", and 25 percent had no opinion.Note 35 Two years later Gallup asked another open-ended question about what should be done with American communists. This time the answers were "nothing, this is a democracy," 8 percent; "should not be encouraged, should be taught differently," 3 percent; "let them rave, but watch them," 1 percent; "curb them," 14 percent; "keep them out of the offices of government," 3 percent; "try to get rid of them," 12 percent; "deport them," 22 percent; "shoot them, hang them," 4 percent; "jail them," 3 percent; "outlaw them, take away their rights," 8 percent; "miscellaneous," 5 percent; "don't know, no answer," 16 percent.Note 36
The actions of the House Committee on Un-American Activities remained controversial throughout the 1940s. A November 1947 Gallup poll found nearly 80 percent had heard or read about the committee's investigations of suspected communists in Hollywood. Note 37 But opinion was evenly split about the committee's handling of the issue: 37 percent approved, 36 percent disapproved, and 27 percent had no opinion.Note 38 Still, 47 percent of Americans did believe that those Hollywood writers (the so-called "Hollywood Ten") who refused to say whether they were members of the U.S. Communist Party should be punished; 39 percent favored no sanction; and 14 percent had no opinion. Note 39 In 1949, 55 percent stated that the chief argument for continuation of the Un-American Activities Committee was "to expose communism, keep bad elements out of government"; "has done a good job so far," 8 percent; "no good arguments," 13 percent; "miscellaneous," 3 percent; "no opinion," 22 percent. Note 40 Sixty-four percent wanted the committee to continue its work; only 17 percent favored its abolition. Note 41
The advent of the Chinese Revolution in 1949 worried many Americans, even as they believed that there was little the United States could do to stop it. Note 42 Forty-six percent wanted trade with China discontinued if the communists seized power, and 55 percent opposed recognizing the Mao Zedong government. Note 43 Although Americans were hostile to the new communist regime in China, they believed that the Truman administration had few options to prevent Mao's rule. When asked in August 1949 what the U.S. should do to stop China from turning red, 8 percent said "send aid in general," 7 percent favored sending military aid, 4 percent wanted economic aid, 2 percent said "use propaganda", and 36 percent replied that there was nothing the U.S. could do.Note 44
During the 1950s, the Gallup Organization responded to new issues and personalities as they related to the ongoing superpower struggle. Joseph McCarthy entered the public opinion polls for the first time, and won initial approval. Fifty percent agreed with McCarthy in a March 1950 survey that there were communists working in the State Department.Note 45 A June 1950 poll found 45 percent expressed unqualified approval of McCarthy saying "he is anxious to rid us of communists and he is right"; 16 percent expressed qualified approval with remarks such as "there must be some foundation for his charges, but they are greatly exaggerated"; 31 percent disbelieved McCarthy saying he is "a rabble-rouser seeking personal glory who is trying to get reelected"; 8 percent were unsure what to make of McCarthy. Note 46 About the same time, Gallup introduced a question that would be asked repeatedly in the decades that followed: "Here's an interesting experiment. You will notice that the squares on the chart go from one extreme of plus 5 to the other extreme of minus 5. Will you put your finger on the square which best expresses your felling about communism?" Not surprisingly, minus 5 was the overwhelming choice selected: 78 percent in 1951, Note 47 81 percent in 1952, 89 Note 48 percent in 1953, Note 49 and 94 percent in 1954.Note 50
Communist China also remained a persistent issue for survey research questioning. Following the successful coup by Mao Zedong, Americans were queried whether they favored the admission of the new People's Republic of China into the United Nations. Not surprisingly, they were steadfastly opposed. In 1955, 53 percent said the United States "should not go along if a majority of the members of the United Nations decides to admit Communist China to the United Nations,"Note 51 and 71 percent were opposed to admitting Communist China to that body. Note 52
An underlying theme of the Gallup studies done during the 1950s was a widespread belief that there were many communists in the country who were well-placed in the government and in defense industries. In 1954, 74 percent said that there were communists in the government in WashingtonNote 53 and 72 percent believed "it is a good idea for people to report to the FBI any neighbors or acquaintances whom they suspected of being communists." Note 54 Such beliefs left many Americans altogether willing to suspend constitutional protections as the Cold War became hotter. In 1954, the Gallup Organization and the National Opinion Research Center joined forces to commission a major study on American attitudes toward basic civil liberties when communism was at issue. The results, as shown in Table 4, were not especially heartening.
American Attitudes toward Civil Liberties when Communism is Mentioned, 1954
|Text of Question||Public Response|
|Do you, or don't you think the government should have the right to listen in on people's private telephone conversations, in order to get evidence against communists?||Percentage answering "yes", 65|
|I should like to ask you some questions about a man who admits he is a communist. Suppose this admitted communist wants to make a speech in your community. Should he be allowed or not?||Percentage answering "not allowed", 68|
|Suppose he (the admitted communist) wrote a book which is in your public library. Somebody in your community suggests the book be removed from the library. Would you favor removing it or not?||Percentage answering "yes", 66|
|Suppose this admitted communist is a radio singer. Should he be fired, or not?||Percentage answering "fired", 64|
|Should an admitted communist be put in jail, or not?||Percentage answering "yes", 51|
|Should he have his American citizenship taken away from him, or not?||Percentage answering "yes", 77|
Source: Gallup Organization and the National Opinion Research Center, May-July 1954.
During the 1960s, three issues emerged in the Gallup data, each with its own unique connection to the challenges communism posed to the American democracy: (1) what to do in the event of a nuclear war, (2) the connection some Americans made between turmoil over the civil rights issue and communist involvement in stirring up racial trouble, and (3) the challenges posed by communist advances in South Vietnam. As to the first issue, when asked if they had to make a decision between fighting an all-out nuclear war or living under communist rule, Americans were near-unanimous: fight. Eighty percent said they would fight a nuclear war, just 6 percent said they would prefer living under communism given this Hobson's Choice. Note 55
The civil rights issue became linked to the Cold War in the minds of many Americans. In September 1964, 46 percent agreed with the statement: "Most of the organizations pushing for civil rights have been infiltrated by the communists and are now dominated by communist trouble-makers." Thirty-five percent disagreed and 19 percent professed not to know. A November 2, 1965 survey found 48 percent believing that communists had taken a large part in civil rights demonstrations, and an additional 27 percent said communists had some role in organizing these public protests. Only 16 percent said communists had either a minor role or no role at all in organizing these public outbursts. Note 56 (There is much more additional work needed to examine the connections between progress in the civil rights area and the Cold War.)
But it was the Vietnam War, and the ever-growing U.S. involvement in it, that were the subject of most Gallup inquiries. Fifty-eight percent in a November 1965 survey said that the communists had been involved in organizing protests over the Vietnam War. Note 57 As the war dragged on without a decisive conclusion, Americans perceived that U.S. national interests were at stake. An interesting November 1967 Gallup survey asked: "Which country do you regard as the greater threat to the United States--a communist-controlled Cuba or a communist-controlled Vietnam?" Cuba narrowly edged out Vietnam, 43 percent to 42 percent--this despite the fact that Cuba is located a mere ninety miles from the U.S. mainland, while Vietnam is thousands of miles away.Note 58 The so-called "domino theory," advocated by the Johnson Administration, was shared by a large segment of the vox populi.
During the 1970s, three aspects of the Cold War were the focus of the Gallup surveys: (1) What to do about the stalemate in Vietnam and how would Americans react to a communist victory there? (2) How should U.S. foreign policy be re-calibrated in light of the defeat in Vietnam? and (3) Did Americans still believe that containing communism should be the preeminent goal of U.S. foreign policy? As to the first, Americans were willing to accept a settlement of the Vietnam War, even if it meant a communist takeover. An April 1971 Gallup survey asked the following: "Suppose the U.S. were confronted with a choice of only the two alternatives listed on this card, which one would you rather have the U.S. follow?: (1) End the war by accepting the best possible compromise settlement even though it might sooner or later allow the Vietnamese Communists do take over control of South Vietnam or (2) Fight on until a settlement can be reached which will insure that the communists to not get control of South Vietnam." End the war won 54 percent backing, 37 percent chose to fight on, and 9 percent had no opinion.Note 59 However, the same poll found that 58 percent would be more upset if the communists took over in South Vietnam; a mere 18 percent would be more bothered by the fact that the U.S. would suffer a humiliating military defeat.Note 60
On the heels of the North Vietnamese entry into Saigon in 1975, the Gallup Organization examined where and to what extent Americans would be willing to place U.S. military forces should the communists threaten other nations. The question designed to test such reactions went like this: "In the event a nation is attacked by communist-backed forces, there are several things the U.S. can do about it. As I read the name of each country, tell me what action you would want to see us take if that nation is actually attacked--send American troops, or send military supplies but not send American troops, or refuse to get involved at all." Several countries were read to the respondents with the following results depicted on Table 5.
Troops or Supplies: Americans React to the Vietnam Defeat, 1975 (in percentages)
|Country||Send Troops||Send Supplies||Refuse to Get Involved||Don't Know|
Source: Gallup Organization, survey, April 18-25, 1975. Text of question: "In the event a nation is attacked by communist-backed forces there are several things the U.S. can do about it. As I read the name of each country, tell me what action you would want to see the U.S. take if that nation is actually attacked--send American troops, or send military supplies but not send American troops, or refuse to get involved at all. What action would you want to see if [name of country] is attacked?"
Despite the increased reluctance of Americans to John F. Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural commitment to "bear any price" in order to defend freedom, the public was still reluctant to denounce the containment policy that guided U.S. policymakers following World War II. The same Gallup poll that examined when and where Americans were willing to place U.S. forces abroad found 53 percent believing that the U.S. should continue to pursue a containment policy, 37 percent wanted it abandoned, and 10 percent had no opinion. Note 61 But the nation no longer had JFK's sense of invincibility. A 1976 Gallup poll found Americans evenly split as to whether the U.S. "should take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to prevent the spread of communism to any other party of the free world": 44 percent agreed, 43 percent disagreed, and 13 percent had no opinion.Note 62 But containing communism remained an important objective to 60 percent of the public. Note 63 The disagreement was over how, where, and what means to use.
The 1980s found relatively little change in public attitudes toward communism--despite the increased signs of political and economic disintegration within the Soviet Union. Fifty-nine percent mentioned "containing communism" as a "very important" U.S. foreign policy goalNote 64 (a figure that held steady at 56 percent in 1990),Note 65 and 60 percent held fast to the belief that there was "an international communist conspiracy to rule the world." Note 66 Moreover, 56 percent believed that "communists are responsible for a lot of the unrest in the United States today. Note 67 In these three areas, public opinion had not changed much from the earliest days of the Cold War.
During the 1980s, Americans were read a list of countries and asked whether a communist takeover would threaten U.S. interests overseas. In nearly every case, the answer was yes. Some examples: 74 percent said a communist takeover in Saudi Arabia would constitute a threat; Mexico, 80 percent; Iran, 59 percent; Taiwan, 54 percent; El Salvador, 70 percent; France, 68 percent; Phillippines, 72 percent; and South Africa, 61 percent. Note 68 Close to home, Americans were divided over the Reagan administration's policy of helping the Contras in Nicaragua and fighting communist insurgencies in Angola and Afghanistan. A 1987 Gallup poll found just 24 percent wanting to give economic and military aid to those rebel groups opposing communism, 32 percent favored only economic aid, and 39 percent wanted no aid given to these rebel groups. Note 69
The ascension of Mikhail Gorbachev to power in the Soviet Union and his institution of the perestroika and glasnost reforms gave rise to a series of polling questions. In 1989, Americans were asked if they believed the problems in Russia (and China after the Tiananmen Square uprisings) were indications of the basic weakness of the communist system: 62 percent answered yes; 26 percent said these were typical of the upheavals that all nations experience from time to time.Note 70 Even as Americans thought communism was corroding, they did not expect it to end and disbelieved it when it did. In 1989, Gallup wondered whether Soviet communism would have vanished by the year 2000. Sixty-eight percent said they did not expect this to happen or ventured no opinion; just 32 percent believed Soviet-style communism would be no more. Note 71 After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, respondents were divided over its meaning: 46 percent thought it signified "the beginning of the end of communism in the world"; 47 percent disagreed.Note 72 The attempted coup against Gorbachev in August 1991 also saw Americans divided over its significance: 47 percent said it marked the end of communism, an equal number disagreed. Note 73
The Cold War Party System
The political order the Cold War created gave the Republican party a much-needed respite from the devastating electoral defeats that threatened its existence during the 1930s. Back when Franklin D. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 carrying every state except Maine and Vermont (two states that Bill Clinton won in 1996), his was more than a personal victory--it was a partisan triumph that nearly ended the two party system. Democrats held 333 seats in the House and 75 in the Senate. The Phoenix Republican editorialized that Roosevelt's "present position is comparable only with that of Joseph Stalin." Note 74 Yet less than two decades after Roosevelt's 1936 win, Republicans had persuaded a large segment of public opinion that the Democratic party was "soft on communism." When the National Opinion Research Center asked in 1950 which groups of Americans were more likely to be communists, the leading answers were labor union members (28 percent), poor people (21 percent), people in the government in Washington (18 percent), Negroes (14 percent), college students (13 percent), New Yorkers (12 percent), Jews (11 percent).Note 75 Thus, less than five years after Franklin Roosevelt's death, his acclaimed New Deal coalition was already giving way to a xenophobic Republicanism whose leaders occupied the White House for much of the Cold War. In the ten presidential elections held from 1952 to 1988, Republicans won seven of them. Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, along with Barry Goldwater, are the founders of a modern Republicanism rooted in the Cold War. Anti-communism became the glue that bound all factions of the Republican party from Pat Robertson to Pat Buchanan.
Survey research for Still Seeing Red reveals the strong advantage Republican presidential candidates held over their Democratic counterparts in presidential elections from 1952-1988. Only Lyndon Johnson in 1964 held a sizable lead over his Republican opponent on the question of who best would handle the superpower relationship. Johnson's lead was spurred by a series of rash Goldwater comments, including Goldwater's fabled answer that he would "lob one into the men's room of the Kremlin" if needed in order to win the Cold War. Jimmy Carter had a narrow advantage over Ronald Reagan in 1980 as to which man could better manage U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations. That lead, however, was initially the result of a perception that Reagan would be a trigger-happy president--a perception that Reagan effectively dissipated in his lone debate with Carter and later as president.
Perceptions of Presidential Candidates Ability to Handle Foreign Affairs, Selected Polls, 1956-1988.
|Text of Question||Public Response|
"In general, do you approve or disapprove of the way the present officials in Washington are handling our foreign affairs?" (National Opinion Research survey, November 1956)
"Which of these two men, Nixon or Kennedy, if elected president do you think would do the most effective job of dealing with Russia's leaders?" (Gallup poll, October 18-23, 1960)
|Percentage answering "Nixon"||43|
|Percentage answering "Kennedy"||39|
"How much trust and confidence would you have in the way Barry Goldwater/Lyndon Johnson would handle Khrushchev and relations with Russia?" (Gallup poll, October 1964)
|Percentage answering "a very great deal" or "considerable" confidence in Goldwater||34|
|Percentage answering "a very great deal" or "considerable" confidence in Johnson||67|
"Agree/Disagree. Richard Nixon knows how to stand up to communists." (Louis Harris and Associates Survey, September 11-13, 1968)
|Percentage answering "agree"||53|
"If he were president, who do you think would be better able to negotiate with the Russians and Chinese--Nixon or McGovern?" (Opinion Research Corporation Survey, October 20-22, 1972)
|Percentage answering "Nixon"||70|
|Percentage answering "McGovern"||11|
"Now, if you had to choose, who do you think could do a better job as president on handling relations with Russia--Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter?" (Louis Harris and Associates Survey, September 1976)
|Percentage answering "Ford"||41|
|Percentage answering "Carter"||30|
"I'm going to mention some problems facing the nation today and as I mention each one I would like you to tell me who you thought would do the best job of handling that problem--Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter. . . .Maintaining a strong national defense." (Robert M. Teeter National Surveys, November 1976)
|Percentage answering "Ford"||49|
|Percentage answering "Carter"||29|
"Regardless of which man you happen to prefer--Carter, Reagan, or Anderson--please tell me which one you, yourself, feel would do a better job of dealing with Russia?" (Gallup poll, September 12-15, 1980)
|Percentage answering "Reagan"||36|
|Percentage answering "Carter"||40|
|Percentage answering "Anderson"||10|
"Does the following phrase apply more to Ronald Reagan or to Walter Mondale?. . .More capable of handling relations with the Soviet Union." (Gallup poll, October 21, 1984)
|Percentage answering "Reagan"||69|
|Percentage answering "Mondale"||20|
"Based on what you know about Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan as a whole, which of the two presidential candidates is likely to maintain our military strength relative to the Soviet Union?" (Gordon Black survey for USA Today, September 25-26, 1984)
|Percentage answering "Reagan"||69|
|Percentage answering "Mondale"||20|
"I'm going to read a list of important issues facing the country that a president must deal with. For each one I mention, please tell me whether you feel George Bush or Michael Dukakis would do a better job of handling that particular issue?. . .Guarding against Soviet aggression." (DanielYankelovich Group Survey, November 4-7, 1988)
|Percentage answering "Bush"||62|
|Percentage answering "Dukakis"||24|
"Thinking about the same list of issues, please tell me whether you feel George Bush or Michael Dukakis would do a better job of handling that particular issue. . . .Handling relations with the Soviet Union." (DanielYankelovich Group Survey, November 4-7, 1988)
|Percentage answering "Bush"||67|
|Percentage answering "Dukakis"||22|
What Comes Next?
The end of the Cold War has been no panacea. Republicans have lost two presidential elections (in 1992 and in 1996), while a Democratic president currently finds himself subject to a serious impeachment inquiry. It is too soon to say what the shape of the post-Cold War party system will be, but it is apparent that everywhere one looks change is evident. Shortly after the Cold War ended, Richard Nixon wrote: "We live in a new world--a world we helped create."Note 76 But in this "new world" much that was once familiar has disappeared: the old arrangements; the old way of doing things; indeed, the old order itself has collapsed. In Moscow, for example, guardians of Lenin's tomb no longer rely on the Communist Party to pay the bills and have instead turned to a department store located across from Lenin's remains to defray the rent. In effect, Russia's burgeoning capitalists are now preserving the corpse of the communist founder. Note 77
Overseas, the absence of a serious communist threat (with the exception of North Korea) has not resulted in a safer world. President Clinton has reminded his fellow countrymen that American leadership remains a foreign policy prerequisite: "The disintegration of the former Soviet Union eliminated the preeminent threat but exposed many others: an increasingly tangled and dangerous web of international terrorism, crime, and drug trafficking; the aggression of rogue states and vicious ethnic and religious conflicts; the spread of dangerous weapons, including nuclear, biological, and chemical ones, and transnational threats like disease, overpopulation, and environmental degradation. . . .Just as fascism and then communism attacked the one clear and true idea that defines us and embodies the promise we represent to the world, today's threats attack the idea of a safe and open society of a free people."Note 78
But when reminded that John Kennedy won broad public backing for his activist foreign policy, Clinton half-joked, "Gosh, I miss the Cold War," adding: "I envy Kennedy having an enemy. The question now is how to persuade people they should do things when they are not immediately threatened."Note 79 Clinton's lament was understandable since the Cold War offered American presidents a useful enemy in communism. As one White House chief-of-staff said: "You tell [Congress] that they're helping no one but Brezhnev by their stubbornness, and they cave fast." Note 80 But ethnic hatreds in Bosnia, the generals' coup in Haiti, and tribal conflicts between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda lack a similar compelling moral appeal. Republican Patrick J. Buchanan espoused a return to the pre-World War II "America First" isolationism: "Every nation to rise to industrial power in modern times did so by first protecting the home market. Perhaps [cities are in crisis] because the good jobs that were once there have been exported to Mexico, Taiwan, Korea, and China."Note 81
After the Cold War, Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., claimed: "[The Cold War] distorted our politics, and foreign policy became the obsessive concern of our presidents, and that is going to return to normal now."Note 82 But what is "normal?" Americans seemed to be rushing backward and forward simultaneously: backward into an age of heightened nationalism, old-fashioned conservatism, and an evocation of "traditional values," and forward into an era where the global economy makes a mockery of nationalism and computers link the individual to a vast panoply of data on the "information superhighway." Political analyst Michael Barone saw "normalcy" in a return to Tocqueville's America where the United States was even more egalitarian, individualistic, decentralized, religious, property-loving, and lightly governed. Note 83 Agreeing with Barone, the 1996 Republican platform proposed eliminating the Departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Energy. Republicans also advocated the defunding or privitazation of agencies that had become, in their view, obsolete. Among these were the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Legal Services Corporation. In addition, some Republican congressmen backed a measure that would require proponents of proposed federal legislation to cite the specific constitutional authority for the proposal. Note 84
Others saw "normalcy" in a resurgent Congress and a weakened presidency. During the Cold War, political scientists extolled the presidency--even as they decried the excessive burdens the atomic bomb and accompanying destruction of people placed on it. Clinton Rossiter in his book, The American Presidency (penned long before the Watergate scandal), celebrated it as an "office of freedom" in the struggle against communism: "The presidency is a standing reproach to those petty doctrinaires who insist that executive power is inherently undemocratic; for, to the exact contrary, it has been more responsive to the needs and dreams of giant democracy than any other office or institution in the whole mosaic of American life. . . .The vast power of this office has not been poison,' as Henry Adams wrote in scorn; rather, it has elevated often and corrupted never, chiefly because those who held it recognized the true source of the power and were ennobled by the knowledge." Note 85
Yet Rossiter acknowledged that the Cold War had extracted an enormous toll on each White House occupant. In an epigraph, Rossiter borrowed lines from William Shakespeare's Macbeth: "Methought I heard a voice cry Sleep no more!'" A few days before his assassination Rossiter sent President Kennedy an autographed copy of his work. Kennedy replied that he enjoyed the book, but thought the epigraph wrong. Instead of MacBeth, Kennedy suggested other Shakespearean lines from King Henry IV in which Glendower boasts: "I can call spirits from the vasty deep," to which the reply is given:
Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them? Note 86
The Cold War gave American presidents many opportunities to summon spirits from the "vasty deep." As Woodrow Wilson noted in Congressional Government, when it came to foreign policy matters congressional supremacy inevitably yielded to presidential authority: "When foreign affairs play a prominent part in the politics and policy of a nation, its Executive must of necessity be its guide: must utter every initial judgment, take every first step of action, supply the information upon which it is to act, suggest and in large measure control its conduct."Note 87 Thirteen years after Wilson published Congressional Government William McKinley's successful war with Spain in 1898 made Wilson's picture of congressional supremacy, in his words, "hopelessly out of date." Note 88
Following the Cold War, Wilson's portrait of Congress as the first among equals has been refurbished. After the demise of the Soviet Union, columnist George Will presciently wrote: "Peace is going to be hell for presidents, at least for those not reconciled to the restoration of what is, when viewed against the sweep of American history, normal: congressional supremacy."Note 89 Issues such as health care, welfare reform, and the state of the economy encroached on precious committee provinces. The president had become, in effect, the Governor of the United States--leading, but responsive to legislative assertions of authority. This was not an especially exciting role, however. Confiding to his staff late one evening in January 1995 Clinton lamented that there was no longer an air of crisis surrounding the White House: "I would have much preferred being president during World War II. I'm a person out of my time." Note 90
Nonetheless, Clinton sought to reclaim his precious powers by finding a new "enemy" in Congress itself--no matter which party controlled it. Presidential polltaker Stanley B. Greenberg found that respondents were not measuring Clinton by his management of foreign affairs or how he played the commander-in-chief role, but whether or not he could tame Congress. In a report titled The Presidential Project dated August 11, 1993, Greenberg advised Clinton that the Democratic Congress had become "the new Soviet Union," adding that John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan had made opposing communism the "moral imperative of their presidencies" and that Clinton should make controlling Congress his moral imperative.Note 91 In other words, Clinton should restrain Congress while also peacefully coexisting with it--i.e., a domestic Soviet-style containment recipe with a dash of detente. But Clinton believed managing Congress could not be "the sum and substance of this presidency." Note 92 Instead, he relied on amorphous references to traditional values such as "opportunity, community, and responsibility" to be his guides.
Clinton's public ruminations about the nature of the post-Cold War presidency did not prevent Congress from asserting its "traditional" peacetime powers. House Speaker Newt Gingrich observed that a succession of chief executives, including Clinton, had become excessively dependent on the first person personal pronoun: "We'll try to educate the president and his staff that the use of I' is not helpful," adding that the presidency was no longer "towering over the land."Note 93 Following in the footsteps of Henry Cabot Lodge and Robert Taft, Gingrich advocated a return to the Wilsonian idea of "congressional government." In a book titled To Renew America, Gingrich declared: "With the end of the Cold War, the case for a strong central government has been dramatically weakened. The time has come for a revision to first principles. In America, one of those first principles is that power resides first and foremost with the individual citizen."Note 94 Many of Gingrich's fellow Republicans said they were "citizen-politicians," sent to Washington for a short period before returning home.Note 95 But Gingrich's idea of a Congress populated with "citizen-politicians" contains a profound irony: ceding much legislative authority to the states, from welfare reform to health care, in the form of block grants.
Thus, in the intrigues between the president and Congress following the Cold War, there is evidently no "normalcy" to which to return. Faced with such profound philosophical and institutional revisionism, an exasperated Bill Clinton declared: "We are debating things now we thought were settled for decades. We are back to fundamental issues that were debated like this fifty, sixty, seventy years ago."Note 96 In many ways, the end of the Cold War recalls Abraham Lincoln's famous words during the dark days of the Civil War: "The dogmas of the past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."Note 97 As with Lincoln, disenthralling ourselves from first principles often follows a prolonged conflict (or can occur during wartime as with Lincoln). Turning back the pages of history one discovers that after the Revolutionary War Americans directed their energies to the first principles of nation-building and creating the necessary constitutional arrangements to sustain these efforts. Likewise, after the War of 1812 taming a big country (substantially enlarged after the Louisiana Purchase) provided a sense of "manifest destiny." Economic expansion and the creation of a party system also tapped into these energies, especially after the collapse of the Federalist Party. The post-Civil War years saw the reconstruction of the Old Confederacy and the assembling of a great industrial engine that resulted in what Herbert Croly aptly called "the promise of American life."Note 98 In 1907, an energetic President Theodore Roosevelt bragged that the United States had become "the mightiest republic on which the sun ever shone." Note 99 But following World War I, the country wandered aimlessly before Theodore Roosevelt's jaunty cousin Franklin restored America's mission and confidence.
From the mid-twentieth century to 1991, war and near-war gave Americans a fixed sense of who the enemy was and who we were. Ever since 1941 the United States has been on a war-footing--either in a general war, such as World War II--or at various times during the Cold War on the brink of World War III. The fall of Soviet communism may mark the "end of history" of a kind. But in reality, the 1990s represent a caesura as one era closes and another opens. Historian Eric Hobsbawm noted that the war-filled and state enhancing "short twentieth century" that began in 1914 ended in 1991 and has become part of the history books. On all planes, he argues, "we are moving into a radically different twenty-first century a decade early."Note 100 How Americans will react is certainly worthy of additional study. As this paper has sought to demonstrate, opinion surveys are a useful tool to examine how Americans arrive at important public and policy judgments.
- Oleg Kalugin, lecture, Catholic University of America, Washington,
D.C., March 18, 1995.
- Oleg Kalugin with Fen Montaigne, The First Directorate: My Thirty-Two
Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West (New York: St. Martin's Press,
1994), pp. 110,111.
- Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence (New York: Times Books, 1995),
- See Kalugin with Montaigne, The First Directorate, p. 112.
- Quoted in Michael Dobbs, "Panhandling the Kremlin: How Gus Hall Got
Millions," Washington Post, March 1, 1992, p. A-1.
- Final Report: Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), p. 245.
- Quoted in Joel Brinkley, "U.S. Looking for a New Path as Superpower
Conflict Ends," New York Times, February 2, 1992, p. A-1.
- United Press wire report, "South Korean Unit, Bayoneting Reds, Regains
Key Peak," New York Times, October 10, 1952, p. 1. Thomas J. Hamilton, "Work
Completed on U.N. Buildings," New York Times, October 10, 1952, p. 1. James Reston,
"Stevenson Taunts Rival for Backing McCarthy, Dirksen," New York Times, October 10,
1952, p. 1. Felix Belair, Jr., "U.S. to Give France $525,000,000 in Aid and Hints at More,"
New York Times, October 10, 1952, p. 1.
- ABC News/Washington Post, survey, June 15-19, 1989. Text of question:
"In your view, is communism dying out or not?" Yes, 31 percent; no, 67 percent; don't know/no
opinion, 2 percent.
- Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Vital Center (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1949), p. 244.
- Quoted on PBS broadcast, "Nixon: The American Experience," September
- See Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (New York:
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1955), passim.
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Richard D.
Heffner (New York: New American Library, 1956), pp. 117-118.
- Quoted in John Gerring, "A Chapter in the History of American Party
Ideology: The Nineteenth Century Democratic Party (1828-1892)" (paper presented at the
Northeastern Political Science Association; Newark, November 11-13, 1993), pp. 36-37. Cass
made these remarks on September 2, 1852.
- The World Book Encyclopedia (Chicago: Field Enterprises
Educational Corporation, 1964), p. 724 b.
- Yankelovich, Skelly, and White, survey, June 27-29, 1983. Text of
question: "I'm going to read you a list of statements that some Americans believe describe
life in a communist country. For each statement, please tell me whether you believe it to be
true or not true." (a) "You only hear the news the government wants you to hear." True, 92
percent; not true, 5 percent; don't know, 2 percent. (b) "If you speak your mind you risk
going to jail." True, 91 percent; not true, 6 percent; don't know, 3 percent. "Life for
the average person is pretty much the same as in the United States." True, 12 percent; not
true, 84 percent; don't know, 4 percent. (d) "You can't move or relocate without permission
from the government." True, 80 percent; not true, 10 percent; don't know, 10 percent. (e) "You always have to be afraid of the police." True, 75 percent; not true, 19 percent; don't
know, 6 percent. (f) "You can't pick your own job or change jobs, the government decides for
you." True, 75 percent; not true, 16 percent; don't know, 8 percent. (g) "There is no
freedom of religion." True, 69 percent; not true, 27 percent; don't know, 4 percent. (h)
"There's less stress and tension for the average person." True, 24 percent; not true, 65
percent; don't know, 10 percent. (I) "You can't get a fair trial." True, 61 percent; not
true, 23 percent; don't know, 16 percent. (j) "Men and women are treated equally." True, 27
percent; not true, 60 percent; don't know, 13 percent.
- Ronald Reagan, "Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National
Association of Evangelicals," Orlando, Florida, March 8, 1983.
- John Kenneth White, Still Seeing Red: How the Cold War Shapes the New
American Politics (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997). An expanded paperback edition
was published by Westview Press in 1998.
- Gallup poll, January 27-February 5, 1989. Text of question:
"Communists are responsible for a lot of the unrest in the United States today." Completely
agree, 18 percent; mostly agree, 34 percent; mostly disagree, 28 percent; completely disagree,
12 percent; don't know, 8 percent.
- Gallup poll, April 4, 1936. Text of question: "Should schools teach
the facts about communism and socialism?" Yes, 62 percent; no, 38 percent.
- Gallup poll, December 29, 1939. Text of question: "Have you heard or
read about the Dies Committee?" Yes, 83 percent; no, 17 percent.
- Gallup poll, December 29, 1939. Text of question: "Which of the
following do you consider more important for the Dies Committee to investigate?" Nazi
activities in this country, 25 percent; communist activities in this country, 52 percent;
don't know, 21 percent; both, 3 percent.
- Gallup poll, September 22-27, 1940.
- Gallup poll, July 26-31, 1946. Text of question: "Should United
States Communists be permitted to hold civil service jobs in this country?" Yes, 17 percent;
no, 69 percent; no opinion, 14 percent.
- Gallup poll, March 6-11, 1949. Text of question: "Do you think all
communists should or should not be removed now from jobs in United States industries that
would be important in wartime?" Should, 87 percent; should not, 7 percent; no opinion, 6
- Gallup poll, July 2-7, 1949.
- Gallup poll, April 10-15, 1941. Text of question: "Do you think
communists in unions are responsible for the strikes in defense industries?" Yes, 78 percent;
no, 8 percent; no opinion, 14 percent.
- Gallup poll, October 9-14, 1941. Text of question: "Do you believe
that many labor union leaders are communists?" Yes, 61 percent; no, 25 percent; no opinion,
- Gallup poll, January 22-27, 1949. Text of question: "The present
labor law requires officers of labor unions to swear that they are not communists before they
can take a case before the National Labor Relations Board. Do you approve or disapprove of
this?" Approve, 82 percent; disapprove, 8 percent; no opinion, 10 percent.
- Gallup poll, July 26-31, 1946. Text of question: "In general, do you
think most Americans who belong to the Communist party in this country are loyal to America or
to Russia?" Loyal to the United States, 23 percent; loyal to Russia, 48 percent; no opinion,
- Gallup poll, March 28-April 2, 1947. Text of question: "In general,
do you think most American citizens who belong to the Communist party in this country are
loyal to America or to Russia?" Loyal to America, 18 percent; loyal to Russia, 61 percent; no
opinion, 21 percent.
- Gallup poll, October 24-29, 1947. Text of question: "Do you think the
communists in this country actually take orders from Moscow?" Yes, 62 percent; no, 13
percent; no opinion, 25 percent.
- Gallup poll, July 30-August 4, 1948. Text of question: "If we should
get into a war with Russia, do you think the communists in the United States would help this
country or would they try to work against the United States?" Would help the U.S., 8 percent;
would work against, 73 percent; qualified (volunteered), 4 percent; no opinion, 15
- Gallup poll, April 10-15, 1941. Text of question: "If it were up to
you to decide, what would you do about the Communist party in this country?" Repressive
measures, 64 percent; put them in prison, 5 percent; do nothing, 8 percent; no opinion, 23
- Gallup poll, June 14-19, 1946. Text of question: "What do you think
should be done about the communists in this country?" Kill or imprison them, 36 percent; curb
them, make them inactive, 16 percent; watch them carefully, 7 percent; do nothing, 16 percent;
no opinion, 25 percent.
- Gallup poll, May 8-13, 1948. Text of question: "What do you think
should be done about the communists in this country?" Nothing, this is a democracy, 8
percent; should not be encouraged, should be taught differently, 3 percent; let them rave but
watch them, 1 percent; curb them, 14 percent; keep them out of offices in the government, 3
percent; try to get rid of them, 12 percent; deport them, 22 percent; shoot them, hang them, 4
percent; jail them, 3 percent; outlaw them--take away their rights, 8 percent; miscellaneous,
5 percent; don't know, no answer, 16 percent.
- Gallup poll, November 7-12, 1947. Text of question: "Have you hear or
read about the congressional committee's investigation of Hollywood?" Yes, 80 percent; no, 20
- Gallup poll, November 7-12, 1947. Text of question: "What is your
opinion of this investigation (of Hollywood by the congressional committee)--do you approve or
disapprove of the way it was handled?" Approve, 37 percent; disapprove, 36 percent; no
opinion, 27 percent.
- Gallup poll, November 7-12, 1947. Text of question: "Do you think the
Hollywood writers who refused to say whether they were members of the communist party should
be punished or not?" Should be, 47 percent; should not, 39 percent; no opinion, 14
- Gallup poll, January 7-12, 1949. Text of question: "What do you think
is the chief argument of continuing the Un-American Activities Committee?" To expose
communism, keep bad elements out of government, 55 percent; has done a good job so far, 8
percent; no good arguments, 13 percent; miscellaneous, 3 percent; no opinion, 22 percent.
- Gallup poll, January 7-12, 1949. Text of question: "Do you think
Congress should do away with this (Un-American Activities) Committee or should it be
continued?" Abolish, 17 percent; continue, 64 percent; no opinion, 19 percent.
- Gallup poll, May 21-26, 1949. Text of question: "If China is taken
over completely by the communists, do you think the United States should continue to carry on
trade with China, or do you think the United States should refuse to have any trade with
China?" Continue trade, 34 percent; discontinue trade, 46 percent; no opinion, 20
- Gallup poll, October 30-November 4, 1949. Text of question. "Do you
think the United States should recognize the new government in China being set up by the
Communist Party--that is, do you think we should send an ambassador and have dealing with this
new government in China?" Favor recognition, 26 percent; oppose recognition, 55 percent; no
opinion, 18 percent.
- Gallup poll, August 14-19, 1949. Text of question: "Is there anything
the United States should do, in your opinion, to stop China from going communist?" Send aid
in general, 8 percent; send military aid, 7 percent; send economic aid, 4 percent; use
propaganda, 2 percent; nothing we can do, 36 percent; no opinion, 45 percent.
- Gallup poll, March 26-31, 1950. Text of question: "U.S. Senator
Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, claims there are communists in the State Department
of our government. Do you think this is true--or do you think it's just a case of playing
politics?" True, 50 percent; politics, 29 percent; no opinion, 17 percent; qualified true, 1
- Gallup poll, June 4-9, 1950. Text of question: "What is your opinion
of these charges by Senator Joseph McCarthy that there are communists in the State
Department?" Approval or belief in charges--he is anxious to rid us of communists and he is
right, I believe there are communists, he is right, 45 percent; qualified approval--must be
some foundation for charges but greatly exaggerated, seems right but unfortunately made
public, etc., 16 percent; disapprove or disbelief in charges--McCarthy a rabble-rouser,
seeking personal glory, trying to get re-elected, don't believe them, charges are unproven,
false, 31 percent; may be right and may be wrong--sometimes I think there are and sometimes
not sure of it, 8 percent.
- Gallup poll, December 9-14, 1951.
- Gallup poll, August 31-September 5, 1952.
- Gallup poll, October 9-14, 1953.
- Gallup poll, March 19-24, 1954.
- Gallup poll, August 4-9, 1955. Text of question: "Suppose a majority
of the members of the United Nations decides to admit Communist China to the United Nations.
Do you think the United States should go along with the UN decision or not?" Yes, should go
along, 31 percent; no, should not, 53 percent; no opinion, 16 percent.
- Gallup poll, August 25-30, 1955. Text of question: "Do you think that
Communist China should or should not be admitted as a member of the United Nations?" Should,
17 percent; should not, 71 percent; no opinion, 12 percent.
- Gallup poll, January 9-14, 1954. Text of question: "Do you think
there are communists now in the government in Washington?" Yes, 74 percent; no, 10 percent;
no opinion, 16 percent.
- Gallup Organization and the National Opinion Research Center, May-July
1954. Text of question: "On the whole, do you think it is a good idea or a bad idea for
people to report to the F.B.I. (Federal Bureau of Investigation) any neighbors or
acquaintances whom they suspect of being communists?" Good idea, 72 percent; bad idea, 19
percent; don't know, 8 percent.
- Gallup poll, October 19-24, 1961. Text of question: "Suppose you had
to make the decision between fighting an all-out nuclear war or living under communist
rule--how would you decide?" Fight war, 80 percent; under communists, 6 percent; no opinion,
- Gallup poll, October 29-November 2, 1965. Text of question: "To what
extent, if any, have the communists been involved in the demonstrations over civil rights--a
lot, some, to a minor extent, or not at all?" A lot, 48 percent; some, 27 percent; minor
extent, 10 percent; not at all, 6 percent; don't know, 10 percent.
- Gallup poll, October 29-November 2, 1965. Text of question: "To what
extent, if any, have the communists been involved in the demonstrations over Vietnam--a lot,
some, to a minor extent, or not at all?" A lot, 58 percent; some, 20 percent; minor extent, 7
percent; not at all, 4 percent; don't know, 10 percent.
- Gallup poll, November 16-21, 1967. Text of question: "Which country
do you regard as the greater threat to the United States--a communist-controlled Cuba or a
communist-controlled Vietnam?" Cuba, 43 percent; Vietnam, 42 percent; don't know, 15
- Gallup poll, April 2-5, 1971.
- Gallup poll, April 2-5, 1971. Text of question: "Thinking about all
that the U.S. has done over the years to help the South Vietnamese fight the war, suppose that
the entire effort failed as the U.S. continued to withdraw its troops. Which of these things
would really bother you the most--that the communists would be expanding their influence by
taking over one more country, or that we had been defeated in Vietnam, losing our first war in
this country?" Communist taking over, 58 percent; we'd been defeated, 18 percent; both,
neither (volunteered), 13 percent; don't know, 11 percent.
- Gallup poll, April 18-21, 1975. Text of question: "Since World War
II, the policy of the U.S. has been to maintain our military strength throughout the world in
order to help governments that might be overthrown by communist-backed forces. Do you think
we should or should not continue to follow this policy?" Should, 53 percent; should not, 37
percent; no opinion, 10 percent.
- Gallup poll, June 1976.
- Gallup poll, November 17-26, 1978. Text of question: "I am going to
read a list of possible foreign policy goals that the U.S. might have. For each one please
say whether you think that should be a very important foreign policy goal of the United
States, a somewhat important foreign policy goal, or not an important goal at all?"
Containing communism: Very important, 60 percent; somewhat important, 24 percent; not
important, 10 percent; not sure, 6 percent.
- Gallup poll, October 29-November 6, 1982. Text of question: "I am
going to read a list of possible foreign policy goals that the United States might have. For
each one, please say whether you think that it should be a very important foreign policy goal,
or not an important goal at all?. . .Containing communism." Very important, 59 percent;
somewhat important, 27 percent; not at all important, 8 percent; don't know, 6 percent.
- Gallup poll, October 23-November 15, 1990. Text of question: "I am
going to read a list of possible foreign policy goals that the United States might have. For
each one, please say whether you think that it should be a very important foreign policy goal,
or not an important goal at all?. .Containing communism." Very important, 56 percent;
somewhat important, 29 percent; not at all important, 11 percent; don't know, 4 percent.
- Gallup poll, April 25-May 10, 1987. Text of question: "Now I am going
to read you a series of statements that will help us understand how you fell about a number of
things. For each statement, please tell me whether you completely agree with it, mostly agree
with it, mostly disagree with it, or completely disagree with it. . . .There is an
international communist conspiracy to rule the world." Completely agree, 22 percent; mostly
agree, 38 percent; mostly disagree, 21 percent; completely disagree, 7 percent; don't know, 12
- Gallup poll, April 25-May 10, 1987. Text of question: "Now I am
going to read you a series of statements that will help us understand how you fell about a
number of things. For each statement, please tell me whether you completely agree with it,
mostly agree with it, mostly disagree with it, or completely disagree with it. . . .Communists
are responsible for a lot of the unrest in the United States today." Completely agree, 17
percent; mostly agree, 39 percent; mostly disagree, 27 percent; completely disagree, 8
percent; don't know, 9 percent.
- Gallup poll, October 29-November 6, 1982 and Gallup poll, October
30-November 12, 1986. Text of question: "Now I am going to read a list of countries. For
each, tell me how much of a threat it would be to the U.S. if the communists came to power."
Saudi Arabia: great threat, 39 percent; somewhat of a threat, 35 percent; not very much, 12
percent; no threat at all, 5 percent; don't know, 8 percent. Mexico: great threat, 62
percent; somewhat of a threat, 18 percent; not very much, 10 percent; no threat at all, 5
percent; don't know, 5 percent. Iran: great threat, 24 percent; somewhat of a threat, 35
percent; not very much, 22 percent; no threat at all, 10 percent; don't know, 10 percent.
Taiwan: great threat, 17 percent; somewhat of a threat, 37 percent; not very much, 23 percent;
no threat at all, 11 percent; don't know, 13 percent. El Salvador: great threat, 27 percent;
somewhat of a threat, 43 percent; not very much, 17 percent; no threat at all, 4 percent;
don't know, 8 percent. France: great threat, 30 percent; somewhat of a threat, 38 percent;
not very much, 18 percent; no threat at all, 8 percent; don't know, 6 percent. Phillippines:
great threat, 37 percent; somewhat of a threat, 35 percent; not very much, 15 percent; no
threat at all, 6 percent; don't know, 7 percent. South Africa: great threat, 21 percent;
somewhat of a threat, 40 percent; not very much, 22 percent; no threat at all, 9 percent;
don't know, 9 percent.
- Gallup poll, January 14-18, 1987. Text of question: "Some people say
that this country should give economic and military aid to rebel groups fighting their
communist-supported governments within countries like Nicaragua, Angola, and Afghanistan.
Which of the following statements comes closest to your views? We should give economic and
military aid to help these rebel groups, 24 percent; we should give economic but not military
aid to such rebel groups, 32 percent; we should give no aid to such rebel groups, 39 percent;
don't know, 5 percent.
- Gallup poll, June 8-11, 1989. Text of question: "Do you think the
current problems in China and Russia are typical of the upheavals that all nations go through
or that they are an indication of the basic weakness of the communist system?" Typical
upheavals, 26 percent; inherent weakness, 62 percent; both (volunteered), 3 percent; don't
know, 9 percent.
- Gallup poll, November 16-19, 1989. Text of question: "Looking ahead
to the year 2000, which of these things do you think will have happened by then?. . .Soviet
communism will have vanished. Expect this to happen by 2000, 32 percent; don't expect this to
happen/don't know, 68 percent.
- Gallup poll, December 7-10, 1989. Text of question: "Do you think the
current situation in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe means that this is the beginning of
the end of communism in the world?" Yes, 46 percent; no, 47 percent; don't know, 7
- Gallup poll, August 23-25, 1991. Text of question: "Do you think
recent events in the Soviet Union mean the end of communism as a major force in the world?"
Yes, the end of communism, 47 percent; no, not the end of communism, 47 percent; don't
know/refused, 6 percent.
- Quoted in "Editorial Comment of Representative Newspapers on Vote
Outcome," New York Times, November 5, 1936, p. 4.
- National Opinion Research Center, survey, November 1950. Text of
question: "In this country, do you think any of the people listed here are more likely to be
communists than others?" The percentages for all groups mentioned total more than 100 due to
- Richard Nixon, Beyond Peace (New York: Random House, 1994), p. 4.
- See David Remnick, "America: Love It or Loathe It," New York Times
Magazine, June 6, 1995, p. 27.
- Bill Clinton, Between Hope and History: Meeting America's
Challenges for the 21st Century (New York: Times Books, 1996), pp. 143, 144.
- Quoted in Ann Devroy and Jeffrey Smith, "Clinton Reexamines Foreign
Policy Under Siege," Washington Post, October 17, 1993, p. 1 and Richard Reeves,
Running in Place: How Bill Clinton Disappointed America (Kansas City: Andrews and
McMeel, 1996), p. 94.
- Quoted in R.W. Apple, Jr., "White House Race Is Recast: No Kremlin to
Run Against," New York Times, February 6, 1992, p. A-1.
- Quoted in George F. Will, "Buchanan's Nonsense," Washington
Post, November 5, 1995, p. C-7.
- Quoted in Apple, "White House Race Is Recast: No Kremlin to Run
Against," p. A-1.
- Michael Barone, "The Restoration of the Constitutional Order and the
Return to Tocquevillian America," in Michael Barone and Grant Ujifusa, The Almanac of
American Politics, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal, 1995), p. xxvi. See also
Michael Barone, "The Road Back to Tocqueville," Washington Post, January 7, 1996, p.
- Republican Platform, 1996: Restoring the American Dream
(Washington, D.C.: Republican National Committee, 1996), p. 21.
- Clinton Rossiter, The American Presidency (New York: Harcourt,
Brace and World, Inc., 1960), pp. 261-262. This was written prior to Nixon's presidency and
- The Kennedy-Rossiter anecdote is found in Everett Carll Ladd, The
American Polity (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987), p. 167.
- Wilson, Congressional Government, p. 23.
- Ibid., p. 24.
- George F. Will, "Peace is Hell," Washington Post, May 30, 1993,
- Quoted in Bob Woodward, The Choice (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1996), p. 65.
- Bob Woodward, The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House (New
York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), p. 268.
- Ibid., p. 315.
- Stephen Engelberg, Jeff Gerth, and Katherine Q. Seelye, "Files Show
How Gingrich Laid a Grand GOP Plan," New York Times, December 3, 1995, p. A-1 and "The
Contract Is Working Perfectly," Washington Post, October 20, 1994, p. A-27.
- Newt Gingrich, To Renew America (New York: HarperCollins,
1995), p. 102.
- "Gingrich Advises GOP to Stress Community," Boston Globe, March
13, 1996, p.16. The term "citizen-politician" was coined by James Q. Wilson. See James Q.
Wilson, "A Guide to Reagan Country: The Political Culture of Southern California,"
Commentary, May 1967.
- Bill Clinton, "Remarks by the President on Responsible Citizenship and
the American Community," Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., July 6, 1995.
- Abraham Lincoln, Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1,
- Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life (New York: Archon
Books reprint, 1963).
- Quoted in Edmund Morris, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (New
York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, Inc., 1979), p. 13.
- Quoted in Walter Dean Burnham, "Realignment Lives: The 1994
Earthquake and Its Implications," in Bert A. Rockman, ed., The Clinton Presidency
(Chatham, New Jersey: Chatham House, 1996), p. 390.