'Negro Morale,' the Japanese-American Internment, and U.S. Government Opinion Studies During World War II
28 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 11 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
During World War II tensions between commitments to rights and the desire to represent accurately the voices and needs of all Americans ran up against national policies emphasizing unity and national security. While state capacity had already grown tremendously in the New Deal era, U.S. governmental activity and internal organizational development expanded during wartime. To plan and implement domestic policies, existing offices studying public opinion were enhanced and new ones were created. These included Program Surveys in the Department of Agriculture as well as the Office of War Information, which grew out of the Office of Facts and Figures. Research regarding African-Americans’ views included emphases on groups such as shipyard workers, farmers and draftees, as well as commitments to the war. Archival research reveals that those studying black Americans’ views during World War II often expressed sympathy and an understanding that their opinions were based in their unequal rights, status and conditions. Yet the suggested means of improving “Negro morale” frequently focused on public relations alone. Earlier efforts related to the views of and policies affecting southern tenant farmers were dismantled in response to conservative legislators and agricultural interests. Moreover, public opinion researchers recognized that post- Pearl Harbor responses to west coast Japanese-Americans were driven by not just national security concerns, but also bias, hysteria, and economic jealousy. Data on public opinion in both cases were incorporated into policy decisions, which were themselves influenced by internal and external political pressures. This paper contributes to literatures on race and public policy, American political development and the roots of public opinion research.
Keywords: race, public opinion, political history, American political development, Japanese-American internment, World War II, New Deal, Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation