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.

(click to view full size)

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.

Archive


The Surprising Popularity of Trade

Results from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey reveal that international trade and globalization remain popular with the American public. 



| By Dina Smeltz, Karl Friedhoff

On Terrorism, Americans See No End in Sight

The June 10-27 Chicago Council Survey finds that the American public considers international terrorism to be the most critical threat facing the nation. In combating terrorism Americans say that almost all options should be on the table, yet a large majority expect that occasional acts of terror will be a part of life in the future.


| By Dina Smeltz, Craig Kafura

Americans Support Limited Military Action in Syria

The 2016 Chicago Council Survey, conducted June 10-27, reveals that Americans across partisan lines support limited military actions in Syria that combine air strikes and the use of Special Operations Forces. There are deep partisan divides on accepting Syrian refugees, and widespread skepticism toward arming anti-government groups or negotiating a deal that would leave President Assad in power. 



| By Dina Smeltz, Karl Friedhoff, Craig Kafura

Republicans Back Trump, but Not All of his Policies

If the general election were held today, a solid majority of Republicans (including self-described Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents) say they would vote for Mr. Trump in the presidential contest against Secretary Clinton. But Donald Trump was not the top choice for many Republicans among the full field of primary candidates. While eventually deciding to back Trump, those who were hoping for a different nominee are not endorsing some of Trump’s key positions.


| By Karl Friedhoff

Flare-ups in Taiwan-China Relations Here to Stay

The China-Taiwan relationship may be due for flare-ups in the coming years, and China's recent decision to suspend diplomatic contact with Taiwan could set the tone for the short-term direction of cross-strait relations. But polling suggests that the Taiwanese public prefers a pragmatic approach to relations with China, limiting the publicly palatable options facing Taiwan's President Tsai, Karl Friedhoff writes.


Nuclear Energy: Americans Favor Stagnation

How do Americans feel about nuclear energy? From Chernobyl to Homer Simpson, nuclear energy doesn’t have a stunning reputation, but until recently polls showed a majority of Americans favor its use for energy. In fact it appears that support for nuclear energy is linked with energy availability and that Americans would rather develop other energy sources.






The British Debate on Nuclear Disarmament

Last month the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a UK group founded in 1958, held its largest rally since 1983. Yet disarmament remains unpopular amongst the general public.