PRINCETON, NJ -- President Bill Clinton's visit to Vietnam this week opens a new chapter in relations between the United States and Vietnam, though Americans still find it hard to forget the memories of a war that claimed the lives of more than 50,000 American men and women.

A new Gallup poll conducted November 13-15, 2000 finds that nearly seven out of 10 Americans (69%) believe that sending troops to Vietnam was a mistake. This level of opposition is slightly lower than that recorded in a 1990 Gallup poll on the 15th anniversary of the end of the war, when 74% considered it a mistake. However, it is consistent with other Gallup polls on the subject conducted in the past 15 years.

 

Public Still Has Negative Opinion of Vietnam
The latest Gallup poll shows that just 36% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Vietnam -- identical with the public's opinion of China, and slightly more favorable than its views of North Korea (26%). By way of comparison, 40% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Russia, while seven out of 10 Americans view Japan favorably. Germany is viewed favorably by 77% of Americans, and 82% have a favorable opinion of Great Britain.

However, time has apparently faded the memories of the Vietnam War -- at least slightly. While 70% of Americans acknowledge that the United States lost that war, nearly one in five believe incorrectly that U.S. troops fought on the side of the North Vietnamese. Sixty percent correctly say that the United States backed the South Vietnamese. It should be noted that an entire generation has grown up with little or no memory of the war itself, and of those Americans aged 18-29, 27% say the United States backed North Vietnam, 45% say the South Vietnamese, and 28% express no opinion. Americans over the age of 30, who likely remember watching television coverage of the war, are more likely to place the United States correctly on the side of the South Vietnamese.

 

Americans Acknowledge Mistreatment of Vietnam Veterans
War leaves those who fought with scars, but the scars Vietnam veterans bear are different from those who fought in other wars for the United States. In no other conflict were those who fought in it scorned by their fellow Americans upon their return. The latest Gallup poll shows 72% of Americans believe that the people of the United States have not treated Vietnam veterans well in the years since the war. This is slightly higher than 1990, when a similar Gallup poll found the same opinion expressed by 69% of those polled.

About one in four Americans (26%) say they have visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. This compares to 23% in a 1996 Gallup poll and 16% in 1990.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,028 adults, 18 years and older, conducted November 13-15, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

 

Now I would like your overall opinion of some foreign countries. Is your overall opinion of ... [RANDOM ORDER] very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable?

A. Vietnam

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

2000 Nov 13-15

3%
33
37
16
11

 

B. Great Britain

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

27
55
7
3
8

1999 May 7-9

37
52
5
3
3

1999 Feb 8-9

34
50
4
3
9

1996 Mar 8-10

30
51
8
2
9

 

C. China

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

5
31
39
18
7

2000 Mar 17-19

6
29
40
16
9

2000 Jan 25-26

4
29
33
18
16

1999 May 7-9

5
33
38
18
6

1999 Mar 12-14 ^

2
32
39
20
7

1999 Feb 8-9

8
31
34
16
11

1998 Jul 7-8

6
38
36
11
9

1998 Jun 22-23

5
34
42
9
10

1997 Jun 26-29

5
28
36
14
17

1996 Mar 8-10

6
33
35
16
10

1994 Feb 26-28

4
36
38
15
7

1991 Mar 14-17

5
30
35
18
12

1989 Aug 10-13

5
29
32
22
12

1989 Feb 28-Mar 2

12
60
10
3
15

1985 Feb 22-Mar 3

5
33
35
16
11

1979 Sep

18
46
18
7
10

 

 

 

 

 

 

^ Based on half sample

 

D. Russia

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

5
35
39
14
7

2000 Mar 17-19

5
35
39
12
9

1999 Nov 4-7

4
34
44
14
4

1999 May 7-9

4
42
36
13
5

1999 Apr 13-14

3
30
45
14
8

1999 Feb 8-9

6
38
34
10
12

1997 Nov 21-23

7
49
29
7
8

1996 Mar 8-10

6
46
29
10
9

1995 Apr 21-24

5
44
32
12
7

1994 Feb 26-28

8
48
28
11
5

E. South Korea

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

5
44
28
10
13

1991 Mar 14-17

6
41
22
8
23

F. North Korea

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

3
23
41
22
11

G. Germany

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

16
61
11
5
7

1999 Nov 4-7

11
66
13
5
5

1999 Feb 8-9

18
61
7
4
10

1996 Mar 8-10

17
58
13
3
9

H. Japan

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

13
57
17
5
8

1999 May 7-9

14
61
15
5
5

1999 Feb 8-9

15
54
16
5
10

1996 Mar 8-10

12
53
18
7
10

 

I. Iraq

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Mostly
unfavorable

 

Very
unfavorable

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

2
4
35
53
6

1999 May 7-9

1
4
38
53
4

1999 Feb 8-9

2
5
27
60
6

1996 Mar 8-10

1
5
34
52
8

 

 

VERY/MOSTLY FAVORABLE SUMMARY TABLE

 

 

Very
favorable

 

Mostly
favorable

 

Very/
Mostly
favorable

 

%
%
%

Great Britain

27
55
82

Germany

16
61
77

Japan

13
57
70

South Korea

5
44
49

Russia

5
35
40

Vietnam

3
33
36

China

5
31
36

North Korea

3
23
26

Iraq

2
4
6

Looking back, do you think the United States made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?

 

 

Yes
a mistake

 

No, not
a mistake

 

No
opinion

 

%
%
%

2000 Nov 13-15

69
24
7

1995 Apr 21-24

71
23
6

1993 Jan 24-26

68
29
3

1990 Mar 15-18

74
22
4

1985 Mar 25-31^

63
27
10

1973 Jan 12-15 †

60
29
11

1971 May 14-17 †

61
28
11

1971 Jan 8-11 †

59
31
10

1970 May 21-26 †

56
36
8

1970 Apr 2-7 †

51
34
15

1970 Jan 15-20 †

57
33
10

1969 Sep 17-22 †

58
32
10

1969 Jan 23-28 †

52
39
9

1968 Sep 26-Oct 1 †

54
37
9

1968 Aug 7-12 †

53
35
12

1968 Apr 4-9 †

48
40
12

1968 Feb 22-27 †

49
41
10

1968 Feb 1-6 †

46
42
12

1967 Dec 7-12 †

45
46
9

1967 Oct 6-11 †

46
44
10

1967 Jul 13-18 †

41
48
11

1967 Apr 19-24 †

37
50
13

1967 Jan 26-31 †

32
52
16

1966 Nov 10-15 †

31
51
18

1966 Sep 8-13 †

35
48
17

1966 May 5-10 †

36
49
15

1966 Mar 3-8 †

25
59
16

1965 Aug 27-Sep 1

24
61
15

 

 

^

Gallup/Newsweek poll

WORDING DURING VIETNAM WAR: In view of the developments since we entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?