July 29, 2019 | By Bettina Hammer

Americans Aren't Fans of Arms Sales

The United States has long been the top arms supplier in the world. In recent years, it has even increased its global dominance, with a customer base of at least 98 countries and its share of total global exports growing to 36 percent.

Yet public opinion data shows that Americans aren’t fans of U.S. arms sales. This year, the Chicago Council Survey found that seven in ten Americans (70%) believe that selling weapons to other countries makes the United States less safe. Indeed, over the past twenty years, Americans have consistently opposed the U.S. giving or selling arms to other countries or groups.

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In 2018, 54 percent of Americans said they opposed the U.S. policy of selling weapons and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia. In 2015, nearly six in ten (56%) Americans opposed the United States sending arms and military supplies to the Ukrainian government in response to the situation between Russia and the Ukraine. Numerous polls conducted from 2012 to 2016 showed majority opposition (ranging from 56-74%) to the U.S. and its allies sending arms and military supplies to anti-government groups in Syria. And in 1999, 62 percent of Americans said the United States would only make the situation worse if it did more to provide arms to Albanians during the Kosovo War.

Be it specifically or generally, despite America’s global market dominance in the arms industry, Americans have tended to oppose U.S. arms sales.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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