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tv   Reel America The Silent Majority - 1969  CSPAN  October 20, 2020 2:26pm-2:44pm EDT

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this is a special report. critics of america's policy in vietnam have been recently described by president nixon as a vocal minority of the nation's population. mr. nixon said in his november 3rd address, those supporting him compromise the silent majority. we want to look into that term the silent majority, a label that has brought world attention to those americans who are not so demonstrative. today i'm watching a demonstration against america's policy in vietnam. these demonstrators were given permission by the government to carry their protest right through the heart of the city, within sight of the white house. climaxing the three-day demonstration is a rally at the washington monument. many of the people merely observing the demonstration from
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the sidelines are probably members of that silent majority referred to by their president. demonstrations here still attract audiences, even though protests, pickets and placards have been and will continue to be a common sight in washington. almost every day there are some americans who come from around the country here to express their views because this is a seat of the federal government for all of the 50 states. not all come to protest. some come to promote a cause. but no matter how worthwhile or meaningless the issue, how popular or unpopular, how sound or foolish the cause, demonstrations are part of the american tradition.
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♪ ♪ >> realize that what's happening right here, right now, with all of these demonstrations, i saw it happen -- >> according to many people, including president nixon, this demonstration does not reflect the views of the 200 million american people. on the contrary, some observers say these demonstrators speak only for a minority while the silent majority supports american policy in vietnam. the silent majority includes many people who have not demonstrated, but who president nixon believes share his certainty for a need for an
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honorable resolution of the war in vietnam. but how can president nixon tell that these people support him? how does he know they make up a majority? how can anyone tell what so many different people are thinking? one way to find out what's on their minds is to conduct a nationwide poll. i did the next-best thing. i talked with someone who directed a poll, a researcher respected for his objective approach and renowned for the reliability of his methods. >> for the last 33 years, the american institute of public opinion has been a respected reporter of american attitudes. the institute known as the gallop poll has pioneered in techniques of public attitude sampling and refined the methods of research in all parts of the world. george gallop is president of
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the association. today we would like to question him about one of his most recent polls. mr. gallop, on november 3rd, president nixon spoke to the people of the united states about his policy in vietnam. he mentioned a silent majority of americans who he felt supported his position. what did your organization do following that speech? >> well, immediately following the speech we had a squad of well-trained telephone interviewers contact 500 people across the country. and then the results came in the same night, of course, we collected them the next day and wired the results off to our newspapers at 1:00 on tuesday. >> will you give us the results? >> well, we found, first of all, a large majority of the american people supported the president's policies as set forth in his speech. we also found that a large majority of the public favored the president's program for troop withdrawals. but we found that the people
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rather divided on the question of whether these policies would bring a peaceful settlement to the war. a further question found by the ratio of 6-1, the public thinks that mor toeatoriums do more th good. >> you called 500 people. how do you know this is an accurate sampling? >> it's all in the selection process. this 500 must include in correct portions all of the major groups in the population. size is not the basic factor it's representativeness. even with 500 cases, you can have a good sample. let me give you a small example as to how we select people. imagine every name in america being in a telephone book. then we would select every inth
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name to come up with 1500 names. there's been no subjective approach to this. this is done objectively following mathematical principles. >> what questions were asked? >> first of all, we had to find out how many people listened to the program. we find a large majority, 75% of all americans had listened to the program. then those who had heard -- listened to the program, we asked them how they reacted to the president's overall policy and as i mentioned we found a large majority says they approved of this. we also asked questions about the moratorium and about troop withdrawals. >> did the results come as a surprise? >> well, actually, no. because the public has never favored immediate and total withdrawal, nor have they favored all-out escalation. they have favored a solution to the war which will not deny the
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right of the south vietnamese to determine their own future. president nixon was appealing to these basic attitudes of the public. they've favored the idea of the vietnamization of the war. >> just as a means of measures how accurate has your organization been in past presidential elections. >> well, i'm happy to say, we've had a good record since 1948, in particular, when we missed the vote, and our final pre-election survey results have varied from the results by less than 2 percentage points over this period. i should add, in elections in five nations over the last 18 months and some of these nations include australia, west germany, france and canada, their results have varied from the actual election results by one percentage point or less. >> thank you very much, sir. if then the majority exists, how
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did it come to be? the white house is a focal point for all sorts of expressions of support and dissent from americans. one of the most predominant is hube hubert humphrey. mr. humphrey, a leader in the democratic party, conversed with the president, then chatted with newsmen. >> i think we have to realize that the president is moody and he is kind and i believe he's made some progress. that's my view of it. i think he has made some progress. >> does this mean, then, that you support whatever the president has done in vietnam up until now? >> i think what he's done has been good. he hopes he can do more. i hope he can too. i believe that no man in this country is more desirous than
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the president of the united states. >> washington and in particular the white house has frequently been a focal point for groups demonstrating for or against something or someone. peaceful protests is a citizen's right under the u.s. constitution. president nixon is aware of the objections raised by the focal majority, both the responsible and the irresponsible. most of the visible pressure on him has been from those who would either get u.s. troops out of vietnam immediately or those who want a buildup to force a military victory over hanoi. why does president nixon take a position between these two extremes? how does he view the conflict of vietnam? >> in 1963, president kennedy with his characteristics eloquence and clarity said, we want to see a stable government there, carrying on the struggle to maintain its national independence. we believe strongly in that.
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we're not going to withdraw from that effort. in my opinion it would mean a collapse of not only south vietnam but southeast asia. so we're going to stay there. president eisenhower and president johnson expressed the same conclusion during their terms of office. for the future of peace precipitate withdrawal would thus be a disaster of immense magnitude. a nation cannot remain great if it betrays its allies and lets down its friends. our defeat and humiliation in south vietnam without question would promote recklessness in the councils of those great powers who have not yet abandoned their goals of world conquest. this would spark violence wherever our commitments help maintain the peace, in the middle east, in berlin, eventually even in the western hemisphere.
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ultimately, this would cost more lives. >> the silent majority. ♪ these are americans from almost all segments of the populous. they include people of all ages, occupations, religions, people from every level of the community, people from every region. ♪ the silent majority. many of them prefer to make their views known by writing a letter to a legislator rather than taking part in a public demonstration, either for or against a particular issue.
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♪ the silent majority. they do have opinions. but many of these people have been making their views known only in private conversations with relatives and friends. not in public forums. ♪ ♪ the silent majority. according to the gallop poll, although they agree overwhelming with president nixon that demonstrations are harmful to the peace of vietnam, most of
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them agree with them that americans have a right to demonstrate. president nixon in his address on november 3rd referred to demonstrators and others who want quick withdrawal of u.s. troops from vietnam. ♪ >> i would be untrue to my oath of office if i allowed the policy of this nation to be dictated by the minority who hold that point of view and who try to impose it on the nation by mounting demonstrations in the street. for almost 200 years, the policy of this nation has been made under our constitution by those leaders in the congress and the white house elected by all of the people. if a vocal minority, however fervent its cause, prevails over reason and the will of the majority, this nation has no future as a free society.
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and now i would like to address a word, if i may, to the young people of this nation who are particularly concerned, and i understand why they are concerned, about this war. i respect your idealism. i share your concern for peace. i want peace as much as you do. >> public reaction to the address was prompt. and some of those regarded as a silent majority broke their silence. the white house reported the president received thousands of telegrams of which 90% reportedly endorsed his statement. many other citizens communicated by mail. the white house says it received thousands of letters and postcards, the vast majority supporting the president on vietnam. in addition, many people telephoned their support. no matter what the outcome of this controversy, demonstrations of support and opposition on
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many issues will continue to take place in washington and throughout the land. ♪ what i have found, however, is that the loudest sound is not the only one that should be listened to. this is wiley daniels in washington. weeknights this month on american history tv, we're featuring "the contenders," our series that looks at 14 presidential candidates who lost the election but had a lasting effect on u.s. politics. tonight, we feature former governor of alabama and four-time presidential candidate george wallace. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern. enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. "the presidents" available in paperback, hard cover and
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