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Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: Americans' Mindset After Hiroshima

In August 1945, just weeks after the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, 69% of Americans felt positively about the development of the atomic bomb, saying it "was a good thing." Just 17% called it a "bad thing." More recently, attitudes were nearly reversed, with 61% of U.S. adults in 1998 calling the bomb's development a bad thing and 36% a good thing.

Do you think it was a good thing or a bad thing that the atomic bomb was developed?
Aug 24-29, 1945 Jun 5-7, 1998
% %
Good thing 69 36
Bad thing 17 61
No opinion 14 3
Based on U.S. adults
Gallup

According to Dr. George Gallup in a Sept. 16, 1945, Gallup news article, "Even though such bombs with their destructive power contain a threat to the security of mankind, in the public's mind the atomic bomb hastened the end of the war and pointed the way to useful development of atomic energy in the future."

The 1945 poll was conducted approximately two weeks after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, but perhaps more importantly, it was conducted shortly after the Japanese emperor announced he would surrender to the U.S. and other Allied forces, effectively ending the war. Likely as a result, the same poll found overwhelming public support for use of the bomb against Japan, with 85% of Americans approving and just 10% disapproving.

Sixty years later, Gallup found a reduced majority of Americans still approving of the decision. More Republicans (73%) than independents (53%) or Democrats (47%) approved in the 2005 survey; however, support was nearly as high among young adults -- those 18 to 29 (56%) -- as among seniors (61%). The poll also found 80% of Americans believing the bomb ultimately saved American lives by shortening the war. At the same time, they were divided on whether the bombs saved (41%) or cost (47%) more Japanese lives than would have been lost if the war had continued.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

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