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The leading headline of the latest issue of Defense reads "Harvard Feels British Victory Essential for National Defense." This statement is meant to afford great solace to old grads who have come to fear that "Harvard is a hotbed of radicals, cynics, and pacifists." The headline is ostensibly the conclusion the Editors of Defense have reached after conducting a scientific poll of undergraduate opinion, but the discerning reader may not be able to reach the same conclusion as has the optimistic staff of Defense.
Of the students questioned, 87 per cent were in favor of aid of some sort to Britain, and 13 per cent were opposed to aid of any sort. Of those in favor of aid, 12.6 per cent were in favor of limited aid; 32.5 per cent were in favor of all material aid; 36.5 per cent were in favor of all necessary aid; and 18.8 per cent were in favor of military aid. The total of those opposed to all aid, those in favor of limited material aid, and those in favor of all material aid, is approximately 52 per cent. This would hardly justify the statement by Defense that "all aid to Britain is the overwhelming demand of Harvard undergraduates." For if we accept the figures given here, 52 per cent of Harvard undergraduates do not favor "all aid to Britain"--are, to speak plainly, opposed to war for America.
This is not the only part of the Defense poll which is distinctly suspect. Very few of the actual questions asked are reprinted in the report, and this raises the serious consideration as to how prejudiced or unprejudiced the questions asked might be. The greatest difficulty encountered by any group with a definite thesis that tries to conduct an impartial poll, is that of asking non-leading questions. Mr. Gallup always, publishes the actual questions asked, to prove that they are unprejudiced. The editors of Defense could have strengthened their report considerably' by doing the same. Then, too, the general classifications of positions are far from clear: what place, for example, does "all necessary aid" occupy between "all material aid" and "military aid"?
Also subject to well-warranted suspicion are the methods employed by Defense in compiling their statistics. The article refers to "a scientific sample of student opinion," but editors when questioned refused to reveal what these super-scientific methods might be. If the report as a whole had shown any startling devotion to truth, this hedging might perhaps be overlooked; but when it is coupled with other examples of distortion, it assumes greater importance. If this poll is any sort of a weapon, it is a boomerang. And if all those opposed to American intervention in the present war are "radicals, cynics, and pacifists," then the editors of Defense have laid an egg in their own hen-house.
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