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Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: Cuba Embargo Popular After Bay of Pigs Fiasco

Fifty-five years ago this weekend, 1,400 CIA-backed Cuban exiles attempted to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and overthrow Prime Minister Fidel Castro. President John F. Kennedy inherited the covert Cold War-inspired plan from his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. But through a series of mistakes, the April 17, 1961, mission ended in disaster.

Gallup quickly designed a special poll to document the American public's reaction to the failed invasion and to growing concerns about Cuba's communist leanings. Gallup's polling showed that, of three actions the United States might have taken to deal with Cuba, the only popular choice was a trade embargo. Sixty-three percent of Americans agreed with refusing to "buy or sell products to Cuba so long as Castro is in power." Less than half -- 44% -- agreed with aiding anti-Castro forces by supplying them with money and war materials. Even fewer -- 24% -- agreed with sending U.S. armed forces into Cuba to help overthrow Castro.

1961: Americans' Agreement with Possible U.S. Actions Against Cuba
Some people say that the U.S. should ___________. Do you agree or disagree?
Agree% Disagree% No opinion%
Refuse to buy or sell products to Cuba so long as Castro is in power 63 23 14
Aid the anti-Castro forces with money and war materials 44 41 15
Send our armed forces into Cuba to help overthrow Castro 24 65 11
April 1961
Gallup

According to jfklibrary.org, Kennedy felt he owed surviving members of the anti-Castro brigade his commitment to achieving what he called "a free Havana," and his administration initiated a plan to "sabotage and destabilize the Cuban government and economy." This included instituting a full trade embargo on Cuba a year later, followed by a full travel ban to the island in 1963.

Despite Kennedy's own disappointment over the Bay of Pigs, 61% of Americans approved of his handling of the Cuba invasion in Gallup's late April 1961 poll, while just 15% disapproved and 24% were unsure. Separately, his overall job approval rating rose to 83%, up from 78% just before the invasion. Dr. Gallup's headline for this poll read, "Public Rallies Behind Kennedy in Aftermath of Cuban Crisis."

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