Vietnam War protesters. Wichita, Kansas, 1967.

Polls and Protests

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Author's Note: This article summarizes a section by S. M. Lipset in "They Would Rather Be Left," by S. M. Lipset and Gerald Schaflander, to be published next fall by Little, Brown.

THE wave of student protest which emerged in the late 1960s has often been called a "youth revolt." Actually, however, the increasing opposition of American college students to the Vietnam war and the concomitant growth in radical-left sentiments among them have not involved the total young adult age group. The idealism of much of non-college youth at that time was in fact reflected in a show of highly patriotic feeling, support for the war and even in a disproportionate backing for George Wallace's 1968 presidential candidacy. Furthermore, opinion polls dealing with the relationship of age to views on the Vietnam war have consistently shown that persons over 50 have been more numerous and more consistent in their opposition to the war than have all other groups. As a 1970 report from the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan put it, "this 'generation gap' that one would have expected, wherein the young oppose the war and the old support it, simply failed to appear."

However, a "gap" does exist. But it is between persons on and off campus rather than between the younger and the older. Faculty members, for example, who are as a rule much more opposed than students to militant activism and campus politicization, are as a group fairly close to their students on substantive issues such as

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