World War II and Iraq: Polls Apart?

By Al Kamen
Friday, June 23, 2006

White House press secretary Tony Snow , on CNN's "Late Edition" on Sunday, said: "The president understands peoples' impatience -- not impatience, but how a war can wear on a nation. He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, 'Wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?' But you cannot conduct a war based on polls."

In fact, there was a poll taken by Gallup from Dec. 31, 1944, to Jan. 4, 1945 -- three years into that war and right in the middle of the bloody Battle of the Bulge, where U.S. casualties were estimated between 70,000 and 80,000. It found that 73 percent of Americans would refuse to make peace with Adolf Hitler if he offered it and that 86 percent of Americans thought there was no chance that we would lose the war in Europe.

The question asked was: "If Hitler offered to make peace now and would give up all land he has conquered, should we try to work out a peace or should we go on fighting until the German army is completely defeated?

"This poll is not a fluke," said Adam Berinsky , an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He added: "There were a tremendous number of polls conducted during the war, and President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt knew about them."

Berinsky has been sifting through documents online that belong to the Roper Center in Storrs, Conn., while researching a book he's writing about polling in World War II. Working title: "America at War: Public Opinion During Wartime from WWII to Iraq."

Roosevelt didn't trust pollster George Gallup 's firm, Berinsky said -- "he thought they were in the pockets of the Republicans." But another pollster, Hadley Cantril , a Princeton professor who collaborated with Gallup, was deemed more trustworthy by Roosevelt.

Support for the war was bipartisan. About 78 percent of those voting for FDR in 1944 wanted to keep fighting until the German army was destroyed, Berinsky found, and 73 percent of those voting for the Republicans' Thomas Dewey felt the same.

That's in contrast to the Iraq war: A May Washington Post-ABC News poll found that about 67 percent of Republicans support the war but only 19 percent of Democrats do.

Moving On . . .

E. Richard Mills , a 10-year Hill veteran, former head of the U.S. trade representative's public affairs operation, and more recently senior adviser for public affairs for Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick , has moved over to the Commerce Department to be director of public affairs. Said to be a big loss for State, big gain for Commerce.

Highly regarded Senate aide Jeanne Bumpus , who had been staff director for the Committee on Indian Affairs and staff director for the Commerce Committee, has moved over to the Federal Trade Commission to head its congressional relations shop. She replaced Anna H. Davis , who left to become executive director for legislative affairs at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Good-to-Know Dept.

The Department of Education solicited bids recently for a "Grants Management System Implementation."

On Page 11 of their request, we're told: "Additionally, the Implementation Contractor must provide evidence that all personnel assigned to this contract is authorized to work in the United States."


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