Poll: North Korea Remains a Top Threat in American Minds

October 1, 2018

Six in 10 Americans (59 percent) now say that North Korea’s nuclear program is a critical threat facing the United States, according to a new report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The report, "The American Public Remains Committed to Defending South Korea," also found that record high majorities of Americans are ready to use US troops to defend South Korea from a North Korean attack.

While Americans broadly support sanctions against North Korea if it does not denuclearize, there is little appetite for military action to forcibly denuclearize North Korea. However, just 13 percent of US adults say the United States should accept that North Korea will possess and produce additional nuclear weapons.

Findings from the report include:

  • Six in ten Americans (59 percent) now say that North Korea’s nuclear program is a critical threat facing the United States, down from the all-time high in 2017 when it was 75 percent. Even so, the North’s nuclear program is the second-ranked potential threat included in the survey, trailing only international terrorism (66 percent).
  • If North Korea invades South Korea, 64 percent of Americans support sending US troops to defend South Korea. This is an all-time high and includes 70 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Democrats, and 61 percent of Independents.
  • If North Korea were to denuclearize, three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) support establishing diplomatic relations with North Korea, and majorities would favor providing economic and humanitarian aid to North Korea (54 percent).
  • If North Korea does not denuclearize, the American public only sees one viable option—to impose tighter economic sanctions on North Korea, with 77 percent support. Airstrikes and accepting that North Korea will possess nuclear weapons receive only minority support.


For more findings, graphics, and methodology, download the full report here.

Methodology

The analysis in this report is based on data from the 2018 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy. The 2018 Chicago Council Survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research using their large-scale, nationwide online research panel between July 12 and July 31, 2018 among a representative national sample of 2,046 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.37, including a design effect of 1.1954. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items.

The 2018 Chicago Council Survey is a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy, and is made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Korea Foundation, the US-Japan Foundation, the generous support of the Crown family, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.