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Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: U.S. Opinion and the Start of World War II
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: U.S. Opinion and the Start of World War II

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On Sept. 1, 1939, after previously seizing Austria and Czechoslovakia, Nazi Germany invaded neighboring Poland, resulting in Britain and France declaring war on Germany and thus kicking off World War II in Europe.

U.S. Support for Poland, to a Point

As all of this was unfolding, in a poll conducted Sept. 1-6, 1939, Gallup asked Americans to what degree they supported assisting England, France and Poland. Americans supported providing material assistance to these three countries but were overwhelmingly opposed to sending military forces to fight Germany.

Americans' Support for Assisting England, France and Poland
How far should we go in helping England, France and Poland ...
Yes No
% %
Should we sell them food supplies? 74 27
Should we sell airplanes and other war materials to England and France? 58 42
Should we send our Army and Navy abroad to fight against Germany? 16 84
Gallup, Sept. 1-6, 1939

In a separate question in the same 1939 poll, Americans were specifically asked if the U.S. should declare war on Germany in support of England, France and Poland and should deploy forces to assist those countries. Americans were strongly opposed, with 90% rejecting the idea and 8% in favor.

Americans' Views on Peace in Exchange for Poland in 1939

Less than two weeks after Germany's invasion of Poland, Gallup asked Americans about two options for trading Poland's independence for peace with Adolf Hitler. The American public resoundingly rejected both options, with 69% saying no to trading part of Poland for peace and 76% disapproving of exchanging the entire country to cease hostilities.

Americans Rejected Exchanging Poland for Peace in 1939
Yes No No opinion
% % %
If Hitler offered to make peace in exchange for part of Poland, should England and France accept? 20 69 11
If Hitler offered to make peace in exchange for all of Poland, should England and France accept? 13 76 11
Gallup, Sept. 11, 1939

In addition to rejecting appeasement, a majority of Americans in September 1939 perceived Germany as a serious threat to the U.S. When asked if Germany would eventually attack the U.S. in the event that England, France and Poland lost the war, 58% of Americans thought it would. Fewer than four in 10, 35%, did not believe Germany would attack the U.S. "sooner or later" if the Allies were defeated.

More Americans Favored Peace for Territory in 1940

In February 1940, after Poland had fallen, Gallup again asked Americans for their views on accepting German conquests in exchange for peace with the Nazis. More than half, 53%, opposed allowing the Germans to keep Czechoslovakia in exchange for peace, and 63% said the same about Poland.

Americans' Views on Trading Territory for Peace With Hitler in 1940
Yes No No opinion
% % %
If peace could be reached by letting Germany keep Czechoslovakia, would you favor this? 32 53 15
If peace could be reached by letting Germany keep Poland, would you favor this? 25 63 12
Gallup, Feb. 20, 1940

In line with Americans' opinions on the issue, neither the U.K. nor France would offer to trade Poland or any other occupied territory to the Nazis in exchange for peace. In May 1940, German forces invaded and conquered both France and the Low Countries, rendering moot any question of trading Poland for peace.

The war continued -- and four days after Japan attacked U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Germany declared war on the United States, bringing the country into World War II.

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