What effect or effects did the antiwar movement have on American society in the 1960s?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Vietnam War and its accompanying protest movement represented a fundamental shift in the relationship between political leaders and its citizens. World War II was a conflict that was almost universally lauded as necessary and proper by the people of the United States.  Vietnam represented a divisive conflict in which the American people came to believe that the United States did not stand on the high moral ground in this war.  The anti-war movement was important because it represented a demographic shift in participation in politics to a younger group.  The movement was the first time that the 18-25-year-old demographic was moved to political action.  Two historical events help illustrate the success of the anti-war movement by 1971.  First, the anti-war movement was responsible for the 26th Amendment (1971), which lowered the voting age to 18.  Since the average age of soldiers in combat was 19, it seemed unconscionable that the men dying in war could not even vote for their leaders.  A second event that demonstrated  the success of student political activism was the May 1970 Student Strike.  This was a week-long protest movement in which many colleges were forced to cancel classes as students protested the war and racial inequality.  It was during this week that students were shot and killed on the campus of Kent State University.  Over 4 million students participated in the strike nationally.  The anti-war movement was not the birth of students activism in the United States, but it signifies the golden age of political participation by this age group.  

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The antiwar movement affected American society in the 1960s. As more and more people protested the war effort, it had a big effect on the American people.

Prior to the Vietnam War, the American people generally trusted the government. People had respect for the government and believed the information that the government was telling them. Because of the protests and the actions in the war, a credibility gap developed. People began to realize the government wasn’t being honest with them. As a result, Americans began to doubt the government.

Other people became very disrespectful toward the government. Many Americans refused to register for the war, and some refused to serve if drafted. There was open defiance toward our laws regarding the draft and serving if drafted.

People also became concerned about the police powers the government had. There was concern over the shootings at Kent State, and people became increasingly uneasy about the government's use of force. Many people were also arrested protesting the war.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The anti-war movement had two main effects on American society.

First, the movement helped to erode support for the war.  This led to a decrease in American involvement and the eventual withdrawal of US forces in 1973.

Second, the movement helped lead to a major split in American society.  The anti-war movement was part of the broader counterculture that changed American society.  It helped to create a split between Americans who believed in traditional moral values and traditional ideas of patriotism (Richard Nixon's "Silent Majority") and those who wanted to move to newer and more liberal ways.  This split continues to affect American society today.

gsenviro | Student

American society saw a complete change in its outlook due to the antiwar movement and the way the war was going for Americans. To fight a war on foreign soil the US committed a large force, the maintenance of which required a lot of capital. The draft system was introduced to build up the military force. It was observed that South Americans and Africans were given more combat duties compared to Caucasians. When the war started, Americans were supportive of the war, but the growing body count, increasing expense and the realization that war was being fought to overthrow a democratic government turned the public against the government and large-scale antiwar protests took place. This antiwar movement changed the perception of people towards the war and introduced them to more liberal ways of dealing with the situation (and refraining from fighting someone else's war at personal expense).