Impact of Public Opinion on the Vietnam War

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To what extent did US public opinion have an impact on the Vietnam War? Public opinion did have an impact on the Vietnam War to an extent. The Vietnam War was fought between 1959 and 1975, between the communist government of North Vietnam and the democratic government of South Vietnam and its allies, the most actively involved of these being the USA. At the end of the conflict, neither side were defeated, however, it is considered a military failure and is seen as a very controversial conflict. There were a number of reasons for America’s involvement, and it was essentially a combination of North Vietnamese aggression and America’s desire to continue with their policy of containment. The war was particularly significant in the fact that it was the first major conflict to be televised. The fact that the broadcasts were not censored as they had been previously allowed the American public and indeed the whole world to see the true brutality of the war. This exposure led caused great unrest in the US, with many shocked and horrified at what they had seen while others were in support of the war regardless. It sparked mass protests across the nation. Although it is unclear as to how much impact public opinion had, it certainly put significant pressure on the government throughout the war. Whilst an overall assessment of the Vietnam War reveals a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that public opinion had little real impact, we must not assume that public opinion was completely ineffective. Perhaps the most convincing evidence can be seen when examining the 1968 presidential election. Had LBJ’s approval rating been closer to what it was in 1964, he would surely have stood for re-election. His decision therefore must be seen as a direct response to an increasingly negative and sceptical public in the wake of the Tet Offensive. In addition, although it has been argued that the US would remain committed in Indochina for another five years there was a clear and...
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