World

Fewer Vietnamese Feeling the Effects of War

Polling in Vietnam reveals the influence of the war may be subsiding

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- It has been three decades since the Vietnam war ended and, although Vietnam was involved in other regional conflicts until the early nineties, the emotional and physical damage suffered by those who experienced the war on both sides cannot easily be forgotten. However, according to recent Gallup polling in Vietnam, the data suggest younger generations of Vietnamese are not inheriting these scars, and as a result it appears that the Vietnam War is truly becoming a thing of the past for that country.

A recent Gallup survey conducted in Vietnam as part of the Gallup World Poll finds that only one in four Vietnamese today feel the Vietnam War has affected their lives to a significant degree, including only 10% saying it has affected them a great deal. While the impact remains fairly widespread among adults aged 52 years and older, it dwindles considerably among younger adults.

These findings are based on nationally representative face-to-face surveys in Vietnam of approximately 1,000 persons aged 15 and older, conducted March 3 to April 6, 2006.

The second Indochina War (1954-1975) ended with the unification of Vietnam into one country. Two years after the withdrawal of the last U.S. forces in 1973, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to the communists, and on April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese army surrendered. According to a Library of Congress profile of Vietnam, the Vietnamese estimate the death toll at nearly three million Vietnamese lives, and an additional four-million-plus injuries during the U.S. occupation. American troop strength peaked at more than half a million during the Tet offensive in 1968 and American casualties of the entire war are estimated at more than 50,000 killed and close to 300,000 injured. Despite these significant differences in casualty rates, in 1993 larger proportions of Americans reported that the war had an impact on them than say the same in Vietnam today.

In 1993, a national U.S. Gallup Poll revealed that more than half of Americans (56%) felt the Vietnam War had at least some effect on their personal life. These perceptions varied significantly by age, with 84% of Americans in the 40 to 49 age range reporting being influenced by the war. Considering that 20 years had transpired since the withdrawal of American forces, the figures are telling about the impact of Vietnam on Americans -- if not the direct impact on soldiers and their loved ones, then the indirect impact on those who were witness to the powerful images of war, this being the first widely-televised war. When Gallup asked the same question in Vietnam earlier this year, far fewer, only one in four, said they were at least somewhat affected by the war. Although there are differences in methodology, the context in which the questions were asked, and time, they may not completely explain the large differences observed in the data.

How much would you say you have personally been affected by the Vietnam War, a great deal, somewhat, or not much at all?

U.S., Jan 29-31, 1993

Total

18-29

30-39

40-49

50+

%

%

%

%

%

A great deal

21

5

15

45

20

Somewhat

35

33

44

39

29

Not much at all

44

62

40

15

51

No opinion

*

--

1

1

--

* Less than 0.5%

Among the Vietnamese, the reported impact of the war also differs sharply according to age. Only 17% of those born after the war ended in 1975 (age 30 or younger), say the war has affected them either somewhat or a great deal. This compares with 42% of those who would have been old enough to experience the full length of the war (those aged 50 and older).

There is also a striking difference in the reported impact of the war between those living in North Vietnam (40%) and those in South Vietnam (16%). The Library of Congress report estimates that more than a million southerners fled the country soon after the communist takeover, fearing persecution and seizure of their land and businesses. About a million of those who remained were sent to "reeducation zones" - previously uncultivated land - as part of a reeducation process. It is possible that this difficult era following the unification had a greater impact on those living in South Vietnam than the war itself.

How much would you say you have personally been affected by the Vietnam war, a great deal, somewhat or not much at all?

Vietnam, March 3-April 6, 2006

Total

15 to 30 years

31 to 51 years

52 and older

South Vietnam

North Vietnam

%

%

%

%

%

%

A great deal

10

5

11

18

9

15

Somewhat

14

12

11

24

7

25

Not much at all

63

67

66

46

70

50

DK/Refused

13

16

12

10

14

10

The more pragmatic policies instituted in the mid to late eighties in the name of Doi Moi (economic and political renewal) and gradual thawing of diplomatic relations with the international community in the mid to late nineties and early 21st century have brought economic prosperity to the country as a whole and helped bridge the cultural and geographic North-South divide.

Vietnam's gross domestic product has been expanding at about 7% per year for the last decade (with the exception of the Asian crisis period) and is one of the fastest growing in the world. Poverty has declined from 58% in 1993 to around 30% in 2002. Although poverty varied geographically, it depended more on urban/rural classification than whether respondents lived in the North or the South. Even in rural areas there was a significant reduction in poverty, from 66% in 1993 to 36% in 2002.

The result is a uniformly more positive outlook on respondents' personal lives, community, and the future outlook of their country, regardless of whether they are from the North or the South or are young or old.

Vietnam, March 3-April 6, 2006

North Vietnam

South Vietnam

15-30 years

31-51 years

52 and older

%

%

%

%

%

Satisfied with current standard of living1

73

71

72

75

77

Optimistic about their own personal future over the next five years2

74

77

76

76

73

Optimistic about the future of the country over the next five years3

85

93

88

92

94

Satisfied with community4

85

88

84

87

89

1: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your current standard of living, all the things you can buy and do?

2: Just your best guess, on which step do you think you will stand in the future, say about five years from now? (% reporting 6 , 7, 8 , 9, and 10 used to denote optimism)

3: Just your best guess, if things go pretty much as you now expect, what is the number of the step on which you think this country will stand about five years from now?

4: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the community where you live?

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,023 residents of Vietnam, aged 15 and older, conducted March 3 to April 6, 2006, as part of the Gallup World Poll. Respondents were interviewed across 150 locations spread across both urban and rural areas of Vietnam. Households were selected at random, and respondents within households were chosen at random according to Kish tables. Interviews were conducted in Vietnamese.

For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling, weighting, and other random effects is ±4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/23335/Fewer-Vietnamese-Feeling-Effects-War.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030