WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Seventy-five years ago, a Gallup poll conducted shortly before the June 6, 1944, Allied landing in Normandy (now known as D-Day) found that many Americans were unclear about why the U.S. was fighting the war. In the March 1944 poll, 59% of respondents said they had a "clear idea" of what the U.S. was fighting for, while 41% did not.
Americans Grew More Pessimistic About War's Length Before D-Day
In addition to many Americans' uncertainty ahead of D-Day as to why the war was being fought, they had become more pessimistic about when the war would end. Starting in 1942, Gallup asked Americans at various intervals to estimate how long they thought the war with Germany would last. In June 1942, few could have predicted the war in Europe would continue until Sept. 2, 1945. Americans were fairly optimistic, with 43% saying the war would end within one year and 23% saying it would last anywhere from just over a year to two years. Another 11% said it would last at least three more years.
In January 1944, Americans were even more optimistic about the war's conclusion, with more than half (58%) saying they thought the war with Germany would end sometime that year. This may have been related to the Italian government's surrender and its subsequent declaration of war on Germany in 1943. However, by March 1944, optimism had faded, as just 33% of Americans predicted victory would come that year.
|January 1944||March 1944||July 1944|
|Will end in 1944||58||33||59|
|Will end in 1945||31||46||31|
|Will end in 1946||5||12||6*|
|Will end in 1947 or later||1||2||-|
|*Asked as "Will end in 1946 or later"|
In the wake of the D-Day landings, in July 1944, Gallup again asked Americans when they expected the war with Germany would end -- and found that optimism had returned to prior levels, with 59% saying the conflict would come to a close in 1944.
Americans Also Asked to Predict Future Relations With Axis Powers
In addition to asking Americans when the war would end, Gallup also asked them to predict what U.S. relations with Germany and Japan would be like after the war. In February 1944, Gallup asked Americans which country they thought the U.S. would get along better with after the war. Most Americans believed Germany would have a better relationship with the U.S. than would Japan, with 74% saying so. A meager 4% predicted the U.S. would have better relations with Japan than Germany.
Americans' 1944 predictions contrast with recent attitudes toward Germany and Japan. Gallup first asked about Americans' views of Germany in 1991, and at that time found 78% of the public had favorable opinions of the country. Most recently, in February of this year, 83% of Americans viewed Germany favorably.
There is a particularly sharp contrast with Americans' predictions on the country's relationship with Japan. Gallup first polled U.S. adults on their views of Japan in 1989, when 69% of the public viewed the country favorably. In the most recent survey, 86% of Americans held positive views of Japan.
Read the original Gallup news releases from March 1944 and July 1944.
Read more from the Gallup Vault.