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Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: 1939 Suspicions About Russia

In 1939, near the peak of the U.S. Communist Party's membership, a Gallup poll found the majority of Americans suspicious of Russian ties to the party. One in four Americans thought Russia was directly calling the party's shots, and another 27% thought Russia played an advisory role.

Which of these statements best describes your opinion about the Communist Party in the United States?
U.S. adults
%
Communist Party takes orders directly from Russia 25
Policies are decided on by communists in this country in consultation with Russia 27
Policies are decided entirely by communists in the U.S. 9
Know nothing about the Communist Party 39
Gallup, Nov. 10-15, 1939

These findings are from a November 1939 Gallup poll that asked Americans which of three descriptions of Russia's involvement with the U.S. Communist Party best matched their own impressions. While the majority believed Russia was actively involved in some way, about four in 10 said they knew nothing about the Communist Party -- leaving just 9% who thought "the policies of the American Communist Party are decided entirely by communists in the U.S."

Founded in 1919 by pro-union, anti-capitalist activists, and inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the U.S. Communist Party saw its ranks swell during the Great Depression, reaching an estimated 85,000 official members by 1942.

George Gallup was careful in his November 1939 news release to point out that Americans' impressions of Russia's role in the U.S. Communist Party should not be taken as proof of any one theory:

"These views, of course, represent opinions only. The actual facts regarding Russia's relation to the party have not definitely been established in detail. Whether those polled in the survey are right or wrong in their estimate of Russian control over the party, their sentiments may account in part for the slow growth of the party in this country."

Read the original Gallup poll release.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

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