GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
PRINCETON, NJ -- Tuesday, May 8 is the 56th anniversary of VE day, which marked the end of World War II in Europe. The number of living Americans who actually served in that war gets smaller every day. Some perceptions of the war have become blurred, and in a 1990 poll, Americans incorrectly said that more Americans lost their lives in the Vietnam Conflict than in World War II. Still, there is little doubt that the war still looms large in the consciousness of all Americans. Late in 1999, Americans said that World War II was the most significant event of the 20th century. Additionally, in a 1991 poll on twentieth century wars conducted, almost nine out of 10 Americans said that World War II was a "just" war -- no other war of the century was considered as just. A review of Gallup polls conducted just after VE day gives a fascinating portrait of the mind of America. President Harry S Truman, new to the presidency after FDR's death in April 1945, received one of the highest job approval ratings in history, 87% (that record stood until George H.W. Bush's 89% just after the Persian Gulf War in late February and early March, 1991). Sixty-seven percent of Americans said that Herman Georing should be executed, and 68% thought that Hitler was still alive. In one of the most telling poll results, an amazing 70% of Americans said they would be willing to eat about one-fifth less than they ordinarily would in order to send more food to war-ravaged Europe.
These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of adults, 18 years and older, conducted on various dates between 1945 and 1999. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.