Older Americans are more likely to support the atomic bombing of Japan than younger Americans, according to a poll by Pew Research: 70 years after Hiroshima, opinions have shifted on use of atomic bomb

Not surprisingly, there is a large generation gap among Americans in attitudes toward the bombings of Hiroshima. Seven-in-ten Americans ages 65 and older say the use of atomic weapons was justified, but only 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds agree. There is a similar partisan divide: 74% of Republicans but only 52% of Democrats see the use of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II as warranted.

Is opinion on the atomic bombing affected by the age of the respondents, or the year in which they were born? In the former hypothesis, people who opposed the bombing when they were younger may support it when they get older, while under the latter, the proportion of individuals supporting it would remain the same.

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    I would posit that there's likely a strong (if not outright causal) relationship to ones' general cluster of ideology. Age is merely one factor in one's ideological clustering.
    – user4012
    May 26, 2016 at 13:41
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    Age tends to influence the opinions of most anything.
    – user1530
    May 27, 2016 at 2:59
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    Also, I don't think your hypotheses correlate to the variables you are asking about. You could ask if people's opinion of this subject change as they get older. That's a more direct question. And possibly answerable provided someone has done long time polling of a population to measure such a thing (But that's an incredibly specific bit of data).
    – user1530
    May 27, 2016 at 3:03
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    Finally, there are so many other variables here that this question simply isn't a good question. Hindsight being one major variable...in hindsight, the planet has a much different opinion of nuclear weapons...not just from WWII but from the entire cold war era as well.
    – user1530
    May 27, 2016 at 3:04
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    Relevant XKCD: Cohort and Age Effects
    – Golden Cuy
    Jan 5, 2019 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


No. The age gap between the differing opinions is only a raw metric in the data. It is important to look behind that measure to the contributing factors. While it may be an indicator of the response a person would give, there are other facets of the problem not addressed by the poll.

What familiarity would the two age groups have with the activities and history of the period? What level of detail were those in the 18-29 bracket educated on the details of the War? Is there an understanding that the war in the Pacific preceded World War II?

Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japan was expanding into the South China Sea, with outposts in the Philippines, China, and beyond, in the search for raw materials. There was a concern that a US entry into the war in the Pacific theater would threaten supply lines passing north of the Philippines. Ironically, it was the preemptive attack that incited our entrance into the war; without it, there would not have been the popular will to expend US treasure and lives.

The War with Japan was brutal, because Japanese Soldiers were brutal. Consider Hiroo Onoda, who kept fighting for 30 years in Philippines jungle, refusing to believe Japan surrendered. It took finding his Commanding Office, and having him issue the order to stand down, to stop this mans attacks on the locals. Imagine a war on the Japanese mainland, fighting a million individuals like Hiroo Onoda.

  • This is all fair hypothesis, but just that.
    – user1530
    May 27, 2016 at 3:01
  • "The War with Japan was brutal, because Japanese Soldiers were brutal." I think this is an over-simplification. I'm sure there were lunatics in every army. Much more meaningful would be total numbers of civilians deaths. May 27, 2016 at 7:57

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