The nonpartisan American Legion’s trusted opinion in 1952
June 1952 Cover of The American Legion Magazine

The nonpartisan American Legion’s trusted opinion in 1952

The American Legion’s Constitution states in Article II that the organization “shall be absolutely nonpolitical and shall not be used for the dissemination of partisan principles nor for the promotion of the candidacy of any person seeking public office or preferment.” But if the Legion were to express political opinion in 1952, Americans indicated they would have trusted it above that of other nonpartisan organizations.

The election-year Roper Poll found that more Americans placed credence in the Legion’s political opinion than all churches, the League of Women Voters, the AFL-CIO and others. The Legion’s opinion beat churches by a single percentage point, 23-22. The League of Women Voters followed at 17 percent, with the AFL-CIO coming in at 16 percent.

Pollster Elmo Roper observed that The American Legion “is the only group on our list which was named by substantial numbers of both business and labor. It also has a wide appeal, apparently, to white-collar people ... its influence apparently goes pretty deep."

An article in The New York Herald-Tribune on May 19, 1952, (reprinted in The Congressional Record on June 3, 1952) reported that the survey question was this: “What organization’s opinions would you favor for candidates seeking public office?” A list of several leading nonpolitical organizations in the United States was attached so respondents could rank them.

The Farm Bureau and the National Grange came in at 15 percent. Other organizations listed included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Southern Leaders of States Rights and the National Association of Manufacturers.

“It will interest many that The American Legion ranks at the top of all the groups we asked about,” Roper said at the time. “This can be explained in terms of the widespread and varied respect the Legion appears to have as an organization whose views, if expressed, on political candidates might be good. For instance, while particularly strong in the small towns of America, The American Legion has almost an equal appeal among business, labor and white-collar groups as a potential source of good judgment on candidates. The Legion is one of the few groups to achieve substantial backing from these three somewhat divergent elements in the population.”

The American Legion, however, has never wavered from its core philosophy to keep its politics nonpartisan and to never endorse candidates for office.