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Public Reaction to the Invasion

Cuban Cigar

Cuban Cigar blowing up in Kennedy's Face.  

Cartoon by Leslie Gilbert Illingsworth

Several Gallup Polls offer quantitative insight into assessing American sentiment before and after the invasion.  The first below, taken during after the details of the Bay of Pigs debacle emerged, a Gallup Poll asked the following:

Do you approve or disapprove of the way President Kennedy is handling
the situation in Cuba?

Approve: 61 Disapprove: 15 Don't Know: 24 N: app. 1,500

Interestingly enough, despite how badly the operation went, the public approved of the Kennedy's "handling the situation in Cuba" (Mayer, 2001). by a margin of 4 to 1.  Kennedy's approval raiting actually increased from 78% immediately after the invasion, to 83% in late April/early May.

A week after the invasion of Cuba, Gallup untook a series of polls to sample three possible ways of opposing Castro.  The policy that most resembled the Bay of Pigs (if the US "should aid the anti-Castro forces with money and war materials") was still favored by a narrow margin, 44% approval to 41% rejecting this policy.  A more decisive public opinion was that of restraining the use of US forces, 65% to 24%.  Along these same lines, a Gallup poll found that public opinion sided with an economic embargo against Cuba, 63% to 23%.

One final noteworthy observation that these polls reveal, if nothing else, is the growth of polling in American politics from Kennedy to the near-present.  In 1999 when the US and Cuba were fighting for custody of a 6-year old Elliot Gonzalez, there were 172 different survey questions on the topic.  Contrast this to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, where there were only 5 to 6 questions pertaining to the subject, and with the Cuban Missile Crisis there were none dealing directly with the subject.

Oddly enough, the reaction in Cuba was better than anticipated.  Though it had validated Castro's claims that America wants nothing more than the demise of his regime, his close associate, Che Guevara, wants nothing more than peace between the two nations.  The meeting between advisor Richard Goodwin and Guevara, just some 4 months after the invasion, stressed a "modus vivendi" with the US government and even thanked the US for the invasion, as it helped his caused significantly.