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Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: The Urge to Demonstrate
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: The Urge to Demonstrate

Mounting public unrest over the Vietnam War in 1965 joined the civil rights movement during the same decade as a major trigger of marches, sit-ins and protests. Late that year, Gallup found 10% of Americans saying "yes" to the question, "Have you ever felt the urge to organize or join a public demonstration about something?"

Have you ever felt the urge to organize or join a public demonstration about something?
  Yes% No%
U.S. adults 10 90
21 to 29 years old 15 85
30 to 49 years 12 88
50 and older 6 94
College graduates 21 79
High school graduates 9 91
High school nongraduates 5 95
Gallup, Oct. 29-Nov. 2, 1965

The urge was similar among adults in their 20s (15%) and aged 30 to 49 (12%) but registered just 6% among those 50 and older. It was also higher among college graduates (21%) than among high school-only graduates (9%) and those without a high school diploma (5%).

A follow-up question asking, "What was it that you were thinking of demonstrating about?" produced some surprising as well as predictable results. About a third of Americans mentioned civil rights and racial equality. And one in 10 said they would like to protest about Vietnam. However, according to Gallup's news release on the poll, most of these would-be Vietnam demonstrators wanted to support U.S. policy. Further, about one in six adults who ever felt the urge to demonstrate said they wanted to protest against demonstrations. As one person said, "I'm really not the type that carries banners and placards, but I'd like to get out and demonstrate against all these wild kids who are burning their draft cards, and who violently oppose our foreign policy."

Other issues compelling Americans to consider organizing or joining a protest in 1965 included important national concerns that remain contentious today: high taxes, urban renewal, rent increases, school problems and socialism. The list also included some familiar parochial concerns, such as "my husband's cheap boss" and "high shrubs at the corner of a dangerous intersection."

Gallup never asked these questions again, but in 1990 the poll asked, "Looking back, do you wish that you had made a stronger effort to protest or demonstrate against the Vietnam War, or not?" Twenty-five percent wished they had.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

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