Concerns about Trump-Kim talks, Middle East

May 23, 2018, 5:00 PM GMT+0

More Americans think talks with North Korean leader are just for show

Two weeks ago, as Americans were optimistic about the possibility of talks between the United States and North Korea, they also were happy with President Trump’s handling of that country. This week, as the prospects for a summit meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Trump have dimmed a bit, so has the public’s approval for the way the President is handing North Korea. As many in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll disapprove as approve of his actions.

Americans still see the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons as serious, just as they did last week. But there has been no drop in support for negotiating with North Korea: this week, Americans favor negotiations 69% to 11%, virtually the same percentages as in last week’s poll.

Optimism about the talks has declined in the last week: just 36% this week believe the meeting would be an important step towards peace, and 42% disagree. Last week, the balance was positive.

However, those who say any summit would be “mainly for show” still favor talks. So do those who see little hope for the denuclearization of North Korea. Even those who believe it is unlikely that North Korea would ever dismantle its nuclear program give strong support for negotiations. By three to one, those who think that prospect of North Korean denuclearization is “not at all likely” favor direct negotiations. Americans approve of the US diverting its B-52 bombers away from participating in military exercises with South Korea in order to make sure that Pyongyang does not cancel the meeting. Fewer than one in four disapprove.

The poll suggests that other aspects of the President’s foreign policy also trouble many Americans. The recent decision to move the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem divides the country. So does opinion about how the President is handling Israel and the Middle East in general. Israel continues to be seen as an American ally and friend. And six in ten believe it is important to protect Israel in order to achieve US goals in the Middle East. Democrats and Republicans agree on this. But there also is a certain amount of desire for the US to take a more even-handed position, even as most Americans recognize that the United States chooses to support Israel, and is seen as doing so by the rest of the world.While a majority of Republicans say their sympathy lies mainly with Israel, one in four Republicans are as sympathetic to the Palestinians as they are to Israel or even side with the Palestinians. A third of independents want an even-handed approach or even a pro-Palestinian one, as do 57% of Democrats.

The President’s approval rating on handling foreign policy is below 40%. So is his overall approval rating. This week, just 38% approve of how President Trump is handling his job.

While presidential elections often turn on the state of the economy (which Americans are feeling better about), there isn’t a lot of support for the president’s re-election except from Republicans, and while seven in ten Republicans want him to run, they aren’t sure he will succeed in winning a second term. 44% of Republicans say it is likely he would lose the contest, while 41% think losing the election is unlikely.

By 54% to 30% Americans overall don’t want Donald Trump to run for re-election.

Read more toplines and tables results here

Photo: Getty