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Over the last few months, tensions between the United States and North Korea have been high. Fifty years ago, the two countries faced a crisis that found nearly half of the US public expecting war.

On January 23, 1968, the US Navy intelligence-gathering vessel Pueblo was fired upon and captured by North Korea, which claimed it had entered their territorial waters on a spy mission. One sailor was killed in the attack and the remaining 82 were taken into custody. The majority of the sensitive data on board was recovered by the North Korean forces. After eleven months of negotiation and the ongoing torture of the crew, the US apologized and promised not to spy any further on North Korea. The prisoners were released on December 23, 1968, and the apology and assurances were later retracted by the United States. The Pueblo itself remains in North Korean hands to this day, the 2nd-oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy. As one might expect, the US public were concerned by the Pueblo incident, but, at the height of the Vietnam War, not eager to start another conflict.

The Furman Libraries recently purchased full access membership to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. Also known as the Roper Center Archives, it is the largest archive of public opinion data in existence. Full access membership means unlimited institutional and individual access to:

A search of the RoperiPOLL database for the keyword Pueblo returns 8 survey questions. In a Harris survey taken in February 1968, when asked, “If the North Koreans refuse to return the captured crew of the Pueblo, do you agree or disagree that…we should try harder to negotiate an exchange of prisoners?” nearly all supported some action. The question was what to do. Seventy-six percent thought that the US should try harder to negotiate a prisoner exchange, but no other approaches garnered majority support.

Only 25% of Americans polled agreed that we should bomb a North Korean city.

A Gallup poll at the same time found 47% thought a war was likely and only 38% thought it was not.

How is the Roper Center Archives different from the library’s subscription to ICPSR? Both the Roper Center Archives and ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) provide access to social science data. The Roper Center focuses on public opinion data primarily collected by commercial and media survey organizations, while ICPSR archives broader based social science data from academic or government sources. Public opinion data is a small portion of the ICPSR collection and overlaps only slightly with the Roper Center’s collection of polls. Both the Roper Center Archives and ICPSR can be found in the library’s All Databases list.