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tv   Reel America The Silent Majority - 1969  CSPAN  October 20, 2020 7:16pm-7:35pm EDT

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critics for america's a policy against vietnam have been described by president nixon as a vocal minority of the nation. in contrast, mr. nixon said in his third address, those
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supporting him comprised of the silent majority. we want to look into that term, silent majority and say it is a label that is brought world tension to those americans who are not so demonstrative. today i'm watching a demonstration against american policy in vietnam. these demonstrators were given permission to carry their protest through the heart of protest through the heart of the city and within sight of the white house. climaxing the demonstration is a rally at the washington monument. many observing the demonstration from the sidelines are probably members of that silent majority referred to by their present. demonstrations here still attract audiences, even though protests and tickets have been and continue to be a common
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sight in washington. almost every day, there are some americans who come from around the country to express their views because this is the seat of the federal government for all 50 states. [chanting] >> not all come to protest. some come to promote a cause. but no matter how worthwhile or meaningless the issue, how popular or unpopular, sound or foolish the cause, demonstrations are part of the american tradition. [chanting] >> realized that
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what is happening right here and right now with all of the demonstrations. i saw what happened. >> according to many people including president nixon, this demonstration does not reflect the views of 200 million american people. on the contrary, some observers say these demonstrators beat only for a minority while the silent majority supports american policy in vietnam. the silent majority includes many people have not demonstrated but who nixon believes share his certainty of the 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 somebody tell what different people are thinking? one way is to conduct a
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nationwide poll. i did the next best thing, talked to somebody who directed a poll, a researcher respected for his objective reproach 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 attitudes. the institute has pioneered techniques of attitude sampling and refined the methods of research which have been used all over the country and by foreign research organizations in all parts of the world. george gallup is president of the organization. today, we would like to question him about one of his most recent polls. on november 3, president nixon spoke to the people of the united states about his policy in vietnam. he mentioned a silent majority of american, who he felt
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supported his position. what did your organization do following that speech? >> 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, and we collected them the next day and wired results off to our newspapers at 1:00. >> will you give us the results? >> we found a large majority of 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 were divided on the question of whether these policies would bring a peaceful settlement to the war. a further question found that by the ratio of six to one, they think moratoriums and demonstrations do more harm than good in terms of the
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attainment of peace. >> there are 200 million people in the country. you called 500. how do you know this is an accurate sampling? >> it is all in the selection process. this 500 must include all the major groups in the population. size is not a basic factor, it's it is representativeness. so even with 500 cases, they will have a good example. let me give you an example of how we select people. imagine every name in america being in a telephone book. we would select every nth name to come up with 1500 words. in other words, it is all done objectively following mathematical principles. >> what questions were asked?
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>> first, we had to find how many people listened to the program. we found a large majority, approximately 75% of all americans. and in those who listened, we asked them how they reacted to the president's overall policy. and as i mentioned, we found a large majority saying they approved. we also asked questions about the moratorium and troop withdrawals. >> did the results come as a surprise? >> actually, no. the public has never favored immediate and total withdrawal or all-out escalation. they also have favored a solution to the war which has not denied the right of the south vietnamese to determine their own future. president nixon was appealing to the basic attitudes of the public and consistently favored the idea of the war. >> as a means of measuring, how accurate has your organization been in past presidential
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elections? >> i'm happy to say we've had a good record since 1948. in particular since we missed the boat and our final pre-election survey results has varied from actual results by less than 2%. i should add that, in elections in five nations of the last 15 months, some of these nations include australia, west germany france, and canada. their final survey results have a very from the actual election results by one percentage point or less. >> thank you very much, sir. if, then, the majority exists, how did it come to be? >> the white house is a focal port for all sorts of expressions of support and assent for americans. one of the most prominent was hubert humphrey, president
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nixon's chief opponent in the last election a leader in the democratic party, he conversed with a president then chatted with newsmen. >> i think we have to realize that if the president is moving and he is trying and i believe he has made some progress, that's my view of it, i think he has. >> does this mean that you support whatever the president has done in vietnam up until now? >> i think what he has 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 of bringing about an acceptable and workable settlement in vietnam than the president of the united states. >> washington, and in particular the white house, has frequently been a focal point for groups demonstrated for or against something or someone. peaceful protest is a citizen's right under the u.s.
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constitution. president nixon is aware of the objections raised by the vocal minority both responsible and irresponsible. most of the visible pressure on him has been from those who would either get u.s. troops out immediately for 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 characteristic elegance and clarity said we want to see a stable government in there, carrying on the struggle to maintain independence we believe strongly in that we are not going to withdraw from that effort. in my opinion, for us to withdraw would mean a collapsed not only of south vietnam but southeast asia, so we are going to stay there. president eisenhower and president johnson expressed the
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same conclusion during their terms of office. for the future of peace, precipitous withdrawal would 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 helps maintain peace. in the middle east, in berlin, eventually, in the western hemisphere. ultimately, this would cost more lives. >> the silent majority.
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>> these are americans from almost all segments of the population, including people of all ages, occupations, and religion. people from every level of the community and region. the silent majority. many of them prefer to make their views known by writing a letter to legislature rather than by taking part in a public demonstrations either for or against a particular issue. 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.
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(music) >> the silent majority. according to the gallup poll, although they agree overwhelmingly with president nixon that demonstrations are harmful to the attainment of peace in vietnam, most agree that americans do 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.
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>> 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 to 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 and congress and the white house selected by all the people, if a vocal minority, however fervent its cause prevails over reason and the majority, this nation has no future as a free society. and now, i would like to address a word to the young people of this nation who are particularly concerned, and i understand why they are concerned, about this war.
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i respect your idealism. i share your concern for peace. i want peace as much as you do. >> public reaction to the address was mixed. and some regarded as the silent majority broke the silence. the president received thousands of telegrams, of which 90% endorsed his statements. many others communicated by mail. the white house said they 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 many issues will continue to take place in washington and throughout the land.
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>> 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 lawson in washington. >> weeknights this month, we are featuring the contenders, a series of 14 presidential candidates lost the election, what had a lasting effect in u.s. politics. delight -- tonight we feature former governor of alabama, in four-time presidential candidate, george wallet. watch tonight, beginning at eight eastern. enjoy american history tv. this week and every weekend, on c-span 3.
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