The YouGov Big Survey on NATO and war: Nuclear weapons and nuclear war

Milan DinicDirector - Content Strategy and Innovation
June 10, 2024, 3:05 PM GMT+0

Half of Americans believe that no country should possess nuclear weapons. Younger Americans are more inclined to view nuclear weapons as promoting safety and are more supportive of preemptive nuclear attacks compared to older generations

There are currently nine countries in the world which are known or suspected to possess nuclear weapons — the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. The YouGov Big Survey on NATO and War researched the attitudes of Americans towards nuclear weapons and their use.

About half of Americans (49%) advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons, with a higher proportion of women (58%) than men (40%) supporting this stance. Meanwhile, three in 10 Americans (30%) believe that nuclear weapons should be restricted to countries that already possess them, while 12% argue that other nations should be allowed to develop their nuclear capabilities.

There is a divide depending on political affiliation. More than half of Joe Biden supporters (55%) express the belief that no country should have nuclear weapons, in contrast to 40% of Donald Trump supporters.

When asked about nuclear disarmament, 67% of Americans express support, including 56% who believe that nuclear disarmament should occur only if all other nuclear-armed nations follow suit and a mere 11% who advocate for unilateral disarmament.

A notable minority (19%) of all Americans argue in favor of maintaining nuclear arsenals, with this viewpoint being more prevalent among Trump supporters (26%) than Biden supporters (17%).

Overall, just one in eight Americans (13%) think nuclear weapons are making the world a safer place, while 63% think the opposite and 14% say neither.

The war in Ukraine has sparked more talk of a potential nuclear war taking place in the world. In April, the U.S. Air Force announced a $13 billion contract to replace planes that are used to protect the president during a nuclear attack.

Four in ten (41%) say they have considered what they would do in case of a nuclear attack, including 47% of men and 35% of women (35%). More Americans 40 and older than younger adults have thought about this, results show (45% vs. 34%).

The U.S. and nuclear weapons

After Russia, the U.S. has the largest number of nuclear weapons in the world.

While 36% feel safer due to U.S. nuclear capabilities, 22% feel less safe, and 32% remain neutral on the matter. Men (46%) and Trump supporters (48%) are more likely to express a sense of safety from U.S. nuclear weapons compared to women (27%) and Biden supporters (37%).

Recently there has been an increase in talk about nuclear weapons being used, namely in relation to Russia and North Korea.

Just 16% of Americans think it’s acceptable for a nation to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict, while 69% think it’s unacceptable. Men are twice as likely as women to support a nuclear first strike (21% vs. 10%). Adults under 40 are more likely than older Americans to support this (23% vs. 11%).

Specifically concerning the U.S. using a nuclear first strike, 17% of Americans support this notion, including 31% of men under 40. One in five Trump and Biden supporters would support this (18% and 20%).

In the scenario where the U.S. was hit with a nuclear attack first, six in ten (62%) would support a nuclear response, while 19% would oppose it. Biden supporters are more likely than Trump supporters to oppose a nuclear response (21% vs. 12%).

— David Montgomery contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on March 18 - 27, 2024 among 2,217 U.S. adults. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of U.S. adults. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education. The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 2%.

Image: Getty (Keystone / Staff)

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