A member of my staff has prepared this memorandum on American public opinion,
which I think will be of interest to you.
This memorandum will particularly concern those who will be the members of
the “staff group” mentioned in recommendation “c” of
Mr. Lay’s Memorandum to the NSC of June
Memorandum by Mr. Walter P.
Schwinn, Public Liaison Officer
[Washington,] June 5, 1951.
Subject: Domestic Public Opinon and the Achievement of
The state of public opinion in the United States with regard to broad
measures necessary to the achievement of the national objectives set
forth in NSC 68 and the national
programs outlined in NSC 68/3 appears by
all reliable objective criteria to be favorably disposed.
The people of the United States have for a long time been and continue to
be cognizant of the threats to the national security posed by the
aggressive intentions and the military capabilities of the USSR. In
January 1951, 73% of a representative sample of public opinion saw no
chance that the USSR would change its policy and thereby make possible a
peaceful adjustment of its relations with the free world during the next
At the same time, awareness of the menace posed by Soviet Communism has
not resulted in a demand for such drastic action as preventive war.
Although in April 1951, the majority of a representative sample of
public opinion favored bombing Manchuria and assisting Chiang Kai-shek
to attack the mainland of China, only about a third favored a general
war with China, while ⅔ specifically opposed it. Moreover, in October
nearly 80% opposed a declaration of war on USSR.
The conclusion can not be surely drawn from the popular attitude with
regard to a preventive war that the people in the US are in a mood
indefinitely to endure the tensions and the difficulties imposed by the
cold war. At the same time, the inference is permissible that existing
public opinion provides a base on which can be built a program to deter
but not to wage war.
This is borne out by the support given to measures calculated to enable
the US and its allies to build the strength necessary to deter the
Soviet Union from war but not to wage aggressive war against it. At the
end of April 1951, 83% of a representative sample of public opinion
favored spending by the United States of as much money for rearmament as
is being spent during the current fiscal year or more. Continuing or
increasing the amount of military assistance given to the allies of the
US was favored by 67%. As much economic assistance to the allies of the
US as was given in the current fiscal year, or more, is favored by 52%.
57% favor sending US troops to build up the defense of Western Europe.
65% favor increased expenditure for the foreign information program.
Moreover, similar majorities favor action to the domestic field to build
up effective strength of the center. 85% favor an immediate civil [Page 91] defense program. 57% favor price
and wage controls. The presumption exists that similar majorities would
favor other similar domestic measures necessary to maintain strength of
The attitudes described above indicate simply a public willingness in
support of particular courses of action. It does not signify public
insistence that such courses be carried out. However, the degree of
willingness is of such a nature that vigorous public support could be
taken for granted if strong leadership were to be exerted and effective
organization to be called into being. The transforming of public
willingness into active support of a given course of action is a problem
not only of information but of organization and leadership. Information
can contribute to both. It can not substitute for them.