Survey Finds Support for Gulf War High Among Students

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A majority of the nation's elementary- and secondary-school students support the war in the Persian Gulf, according to a poll released last week. But that support varies greatly along age, gender, racial, and regional lines.

Moreover, support for the United States' involvement in the war drops dramatically when the 3rd through 12th graders are asked to consider the impact of American deaths and injuries, according to the Louis Harris and Associates/Scholastic Youth poll of 1,379 students.

The poll, which was conducted during the war's third week--Jan. 31 to Feb. 7--is the first nationwide effort to assess how U.S. students feel about the Persian Gulf war. Students in 59 public, private, and parochial schools across the United States were surveyed.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they supported the war, while 27 percent opposed it, and 19 percent were undecided. Students in 9th through 12th grade were the most supportive of the war; 69 percent said they approved of it, while 17 percent were opposed. Students in 3rd through 5th grade were the least supportive at 32 percent, with 41 percent opposing the war.

Of 6th through 8th graders, 54 percent approved of and 27 percent opposed the war. Percentages for all analyses do not total 100 because many students were undecided.

Boys favored the war 64 percent to 21 percent, while girls supported it 43 percent to 35 percent.

Racial, Regional Differences

Black students in the survey showed the least enthusiasm for the war; only 28 percent said they favored it, while 50 percent were opposed. Of blacks, 41 percent agreed that "This war is not worth fighting at all," compared with 17 percent of whites and 24 percent of Hispanics.

Meanwhile, a majority of white (59 percent) and Hispanic (53 percent) students favored the war, with only 23 percent and 31 percent, re8spectively, in opposition.

By region, students in the South were most supportive of the war--63 percent to 19 percent. Students in the Midwest were least supportive, but still favored the war 48 percent to 31 percent.

Fifty percent of the students in both the East and West approved of the war; 36 percent of those in the East and 26 percent of those in the West opposed it.

Overall, 63 percent of those polled said the war made them "feel proud" of their nation. Twenty percent said it did not.

More whites, males, 9th through 12th graders, and Southerners said the war made them feel proud. Of all the subgroups, only blacks did not have a majority say that the war made them feel proud: they split with 39 percent on either side of the question.

Casualties Make a Difference

Despite the support, only 11 percent of the students said they would support the war if it involved "heavy American deaths and injuries." Twenty-two percent would support the war if "moderate American deaths and injuries" were the outcome, and 34 percent would support it if Americans received "few or no deaths and injuries."

In addition, 21 percent agreed that "This war is not worth fighting at all."

The students surveyed tended to have many of the same concerns as adults about the war--casualties, relatives and friends stationed in the Gulf region, terrorism--said the pollster, Louis Harris, although those concerns are heightened among the young. His firm has been polling adults in conjunction with National Public Radio.

The poll also surveyed students about such other aspects of the war as why the United States is involved, who will win the war, and who they talk to about the war.

Among those findings:

65 percent of the students said U.S. troops are in the Gulf "to stop one nation from taking over a neighboring country."

53 percent were frightened that the war will affect them personally.

41 percent were concerned about terrorist attacks in their neighborhoods.

78 percent said the U.S. and its allies will win the war.

63 percent said the war will last for at least four months.

44 percent said they would be likely to volunteer for the military if they could, and 10 percent favored a draft.

77 percent said they talk to their parents about the war, 65 percent to their friends, and 63 percent to their teachers.

64 percent know someone stationed in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Gulf region.

67 percent gave President Bush a "positive" rating for his handling of the war.

66 percent favored demonstrations in support of the war, while 54 percent opposed demonstrations against the war.

Vol. 10, Issue 23, Page 16

Published in Print: February 27, 1991, as Survey Finds Support for Gulf War High Among Students
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