Poll: American loss in World War I stumps public (7-16-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (July 16, 1941)

The Gallup Poll –

Higher cost in men, money feared by majority if U.S. fights again

By Dr. George Gallup, Director, American Institute of Public Opinion

Princeton, N.J., July 16 –
If all the nation’s 50 million voters could be assembled on one radio quiz program and asked how much money the last World War cost the United States, and how many American soldiers were killed, more than 93 people in every 100 would flunk each question, even allowing for the maximum leniency in scoring their answers.

However, even if the general public cannot say exactly how much World War I did cost in men and money, the majority have the distinct impression that the present war would cost the United States a great deal more if she gets into it.

Those facts are revealed in a nationwide “quiz poll” by the American Institute of Public Opinion.

Some say trillions

Of all who ventured a guess on the cost of the last war, a surprising number thought it was less than $100 million, while an equally large group thought it was more than $73 billion. A few actually said the war cost “hundreds of billions” or “several trillions.”

According to Treasury estimates, the total cost of World War I to the United States, including uncollected foreign debts, was more than $41 billion up to 1934. Actual War and Navy Department costs for the conflict itself were approximately $19 billion. Hence on the most lenient scoring basis, any answer in the quiz between $18-45 billion could be roughly accurate, depending on what items are included.

Only 5% in the quiz named a figure in that range.

Army and Navy records show 37,568 killed in action and 12,942 deaths from wounds received in action, or a total of 50,510 dead.

In the quiz, however, only 6% named a figure between 40,000 and 50,000.

Many thought the figure was between 100,000 and 500,000, while some said more than a million American soldiers were killed as a result of the war.

See higher price

Next, the survey ought to discover what the country thinks about the possible cost of another war.

If we go into the war, would you say that it will cost our country more money, or less money than World War I?

More… 87%
Less… 1%
About the same… 5%
No opinion… 7%

If we go into the war, would you day that we will have more soldiers and sailors killed, or fewer, than in World War I?

More… 45%
Fewer… 31%
About the same… 9%
No opinion… 15%

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