NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A majority of Americans surveyed believe dropping atomic bombs on Japan during World War II was the right thing to do, but support was weaker among Democrats, women, younger voters and minority voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
The poll, released Tuesday, found 61 percent of the more than 2,400 American voters questioned believe the U.S. did the right thing. Twenty-two percent called it wrong and 16 percent were undecided.
The first bomb was dropped Aug. 6, 1945, on Hiroshima. An estimated 140,000 people were killed instantly or died within a few months. Tens of thousands more died from radiation poisoning in the years following.
Three days later, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people. Japan surrendered less than a week later.
"Sixty-four years after the dawn of the atomic age, one in five Americans think President Harry Truman made a mistake dropping the bomb," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The poll asked a single question: "Do you think the United States did the right thing or the wrong thing by dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?"
Among voters over 55 years of age, 73 percent of those surveyed approved the decision while 13 percent opposed. Sixty percent of voters 35 to 54 approved, while 50 percent approved among voters 18 to 34 years old, according to the poll.
"Voters who remember the horrors of World War II overwhelmingly support Truman's decision," Brown said. "Support drops with age, from the generation that grew up with the nuclear fear of the Cold War to the youngest voters, who know less about WW II or the Cold War."
Only 34 percent of black voters and 44 percent of Hispanic voters approved the decision, according to the poll. But Brown cautioned that the polling sample was smaller for those groups, so officials said the margin of error was 8 percentage points for blacks and 10 percentage points for Hispanics.
Support for Truman's decision was much stronger among Republicans than Democrats and among men than women.
Among Democrats surveyed, 49 percent approved, while 74 percent of Republicans supported Truman's decision.
Among women questioned, 51 percent supported the bombing, compared to 72 percent of men surveyed.
The poll showed about 70 percent of white Protestants, Catholics and evangelical Christians support the bombing, while 58 percent of Jews approved. The margin of error was 12 percentage points for Jewish voters, officials said.
Quinnipiac surveyed 2,409 registered voters from July 27 to Aug. 3. The poll has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.