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Public Awareness of Cuba Before the Cuban Missile Crisis

Heading into the November 1962 midterm elections, Republicans had decided to target President Kennedy’s foreign policy record as one of their primary lines of attack. Kennedy himself was not on the ballot, of course, but Republicans hoped to tar Congressional Democrats by association.

94% of Americans said they knew about “our troubles with Cuba” before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In settling on that strategy, a key factor was the broad public awareness of the issue. From the late 1950s through the first years of the 1960s, with Castro’s rise and embrace of Communism, the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, and the scrutiny of the Soviet military buildup on the island during the summer of 1962, Cuba figured prominently in news reports and on the American public’s radar. Republicans built on that foundation, and during the summer of 1962 they ramped up their attacks on the Kennedy administration’s Cuba policy.

This Gallup Poll, conducted in late-September 1962, only weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis, illustrates the point well. The question respondents were asked–Have you heard or read about our troubles with Cuba?–was unfortunately rather vague, so it’s not possible to break it down further on which aspects of “our troubles” weighed most heavily.

 

Question: Have you heard or read about our troubles with Cuba?

Gallup, 9/20-9/25/1962

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