Public Opinion Polling before the Internment of Japanese-Americans
Soon after Pearl Harbor, acting under political pressure and without time to design and pre-test a survey, interviewers from the Agriculture Department’s Program Surveys spoke to people in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and California’s Imperial Valley. These “preliminary impressions” found a range of views toward Japanese-Americans, with more negative opinions in rural areas, among Filipinos and people who worked with them “or in competition with them.” While distinguishing between particular individuals and the group, there was “a feeling that all should be watched, until we know which are disloyal, but a tendency to feel that most are loyal – if we could be sure which.”
These findings, including political and economic considerations, were presented to high-level government officials and were part of the discussions underlying the deportations. In a late January 1943 meeting where the data were discussed, Secretary of Agriculture Wickard “emphasized the political aspects of the situation reflected in the attitude of the state officials, the abuse of the licensing power, and the acuteness of the problem in the rural areas especially as the planting season approached…”
…Once the decision was made to proceed with the relocation, public opinion studies tracked overall public opinion and views in the areas where relocation was taking place and evaluated messages about the relocation, targeted at individuals within and outside of the country.
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