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Gallup Vault: Americans Not Keen on A-Bomb During Korean War

Gallup Vault: Americans Not Keen on A-Bomb During Korean War

In August 1950, as American-led U.N. military forces faced possible defeat two months into the Korean War, Gallup asked Americans what they thought of using the atom bomb in the conflict. The message was fairly strong -- the public was 2-to-1 against it, 60% to 28%.

Americans' Support for Using Atom Bomb During Korean War
Do you think the United States should or should not use the atom bomb in Korea?
U.S. adults
%
Should 28
Should not 60
No opinion 12
Gallup, Aug. 20-25, 1950

In reporting the question, George Gallup explained that "as the military situation deteriorated with the Red Koreans continually driving our forces back, some observers wondered whether there might not be increasing pressure to use the powerful bomb which five years ago so greatly hastened the surrender of Japan in World War II."

A year later, with the war still raging, Gallup returned to the issue, only with a different question asking whether United Nations forces should use the atom bomb "on enemy military targets in Korea." Perhaps because of the emphasis on military targets, or because the question asked about the U.N. rather than the U.S. dropping the bomb, or perhaps because support had truly grown -- the reason is unclear -- 40% of Americans were supportive and another 10% offered qualified support.

At that point, Gallup also asked an open-ended question to glean what Americans thought the U.S. should do next in the war, and the atom bomb was not at the top of the list. Rather, the answers are reflective of a quagmire with no good solutions. Only 9% said the U.S. should use the atom bomb, while another 27% said it should intensify the fighting generally and 4% said to go all out or get out.

Just 7% said the U.S. should maintain the status quo. At the same time, 20% favored ending the war by some means, and 10% expressly said to reach an agreement or "make peace."

The war continued until an armistice was signed in July 1953.

Americans' Advice for What to Do Next in Korea
What do you, yourself, think we should do now about the war in Korea?
U.S. adults
%
Intensify fighting: Fight to a finish, use every weapon we have, really go north, give the reds a run, fight it through, send more troops, go all out and get it over with open declaration of war, win 27
End the Korean War (but doesn't say how): End it, finish the war, stop it, end it and get the boys home 20
Make peace: Talk into some agreement, reach a decision with the reds, settlement 10
Use the atom bomb, atomic weapons 9
Continue as we are, we are doing all we can, keep on till settled, follow United Nations 7
Withdraw: Pull out of Korea, quit, stop fighting, send boys home 7
All out or get out 4
Negative opinion of the Korean War: Shouldn't have gone there in the first place, we have no business there, more a liability than an asset 3
Recall MacArthur: Do what Mac suggested 2
Miscellaneous 5
No opinion 11
Gallup, Nov. 11-16, 1951

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More about Gallup polling on the Korean War can be read here.

The original Gallup news release is available here.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more insights from the Gallup Vault.

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