Press Advisory 3/31/05
AP Poll Shows Americans Prefer Nuclear Disarmament to Alternatives by Large Margins
Contact: Greg Mello 505-265-1200
Albuquerque -- An Associated Press poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs (at http://www.ap-ipsosresults.com/) shows that two-thirds (66%) of Americans believe no nation should have nuclear weapons.
The AP story can be found at, for example, http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=628195. [That story is also attached below in-line for future ease of reference.]
These findings are consistent with a more in-depth prior study conducted by the prestigious Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and collaborator organizations at the University of Maryland in 2004, available in full at http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/WMD/WMDreport_04_15_04.pdf.
A key finding of this week's results is that Americans prefer a policy of universal and complete nuclear disarmament to other alternatives by a ratio of more than 4 to 1. In contrast to the 66% who chose the statement "No countries should be allowed to have nuclear weapons," only 13% chose "Only the United States and its allies should be allowed to have nuclear weapons." Only 11% chose "Only countries that already have nuclear weapons should be allowed to have them."
"These results are remarkable from several perspectives," said Study Group Director Greg Mello. "First, they show that the basic wisdom of the tradeoff which became the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) -- that the nuclear weapon states would gradually and complete disarm in order that other countries not acquire nuclear weapons -- is still very widely appreciated in the U.S., despite decades of contrary practice and endless rhetoric about the supposed necessity of "nuclear deterrence." Americans fundamentally do not buy into this idea. They understand what our national leaders do not: we cannot get others to disabuse nuclear weapons if we seek to make them legitimate for ourselves. The core of all nonproliferation efforts in a practical world has to be that nuclear weapons are illegitimate, and indeed this is the basic idea at the heart of the NPT. Americans understand this basic core principle, despite all the propaganda claiming otherwise.
"Second, Americans distinguish nuclear weapons from the military generally. Trust in the military is running very high in the U.S. right now, but this is not translating into trust in nuclear weapons for security.
"Third, these results suggest that New Mexico, a state which is 20 times more economically dependent upon nuclear weapons than any other state -- and which has declined sharply in relative economic performance relative to other states as that dependence has grown -- is home to an industry which is not embraced by Americans. New Mexico must beware, lest its identity and reputation be captured by an industry which Americans apparently associate with insecurity and worse. The direction of this industry, e.g. toward plutonium pit production for the long haul and toward modified and more "usable" nuclear weapons, is not democratically supported -- not at all.
"Fourth, these findings should cause liberal congresspersons and arms controllers to take stock and re-think their implicit and explicit support for retaining a "safe and reliable" nuclear stockpile. Most Americans do not support retaining nuclear stockpiles indefinitely. It is not just new nuclear weapons they don't want. They want fewer, and then zero, nuclear weapons. The PIPA poll found that 84% of Americans supported the NPT's requirement for full nuclear disarmament. It also found that the average guessestimate of the U.S. stockpile is 200 nuclear weapons and the average number of weapons desired is 100. (We have more than 10,000 weapons and there are no actual binding laws or treaties, other than executive branch memoranda, under which this number is to be decreased, despite extensive misrepresentations of the Moscow Treaty.)
"Finally, those who seek to find a political voice for these anti-nuclear attitudes -- like most members of the Santa Fe City Council and the 200 + New Mexico businesses and nonprofits who have endorsed disarmament and nonproliferation resolutions like the "Call for Nuclear Disarmament" (at http://www.lasg.org) -- should take heart. Their efforts are very broadly supported in society, and any electoral impact from this kind of political leadership is likely to be positive, not negative. Yearnings for peace cannot be forever stilled; most Americans reject the embrace of apocalyptic violence; and credit will come to those political leaders who can articulate and help realize these near-universal values."
Mar. 30, 2005 - Though the Soviet Union is gone, the nuclear fears that fueled the Cold War haven't disappeared. Most Americans think nuclear weapons are so dangerous that no country should have them, and a majority believe it's likely that terrorists or a nation will use them within five years.
The Bush administration repeatedly warns about nuclear weapons and is using diplomacy and force to try to limit the threat.
Still, North Korea claims it has nuclear weapons now and is making more. Iran is widely believed to be within five years of developing such weapons. And security for the nuclear material scattered across the countries of the old Soviet Union remains a major concern.
Lurking in the background is the threat that worries U.S. officials the most terrorists' desire to acquire nuclear weapons.
All that helps explain why 52 percent of Americans think a nuclear attack by one country against another is somewhat or very likely by 2010, according to an AP-Ipsos poll. Fifty-three percent think a nuclear attack by terrorists is at least somewhat likely.
Two-thirds of Americans say no nation should have nuclear weapons, including the U.S., and most of the others say no more countries should get them.
"I worry about Pakistan and India," said Barbara Smith, who lives in a Philadelphia suburb. "I don't know what's going to happen with Iran, don't know what's going to happen with North Korea."
Smith said she wants to see the spread of nuclear weapons stopped. "It's too dangerous, too many things can go wrong," she said.
About one-third of those in an ABC News-Washington Post poll in the mid-1980s when the Cold War was hot thought there would be a nuclear war in the next few years between the two superpowers.
The AP-Ipsos poll found 44 percent of those surveyed said they frequently or occasionally worry about a terrorist attack using nuclear weapons, while 55 percent said they rarely or never do.
"Terrorists are more likely to use a nuclear weapon because they are unpredictable," said John Saint of Syracuse, N.Y., who works for a trucking company.
Susan Winter of McLean, Va., says her awareness of the nuclear threat doesn't cause her to fret constantly.
"I'm concerned, but I don't worry about it," Winter said. "I'm not a nail biter. I don't lose sleep over it."
Fears about the use of a nuclear weapon are pretty evenly spread across all age groups. But a generational divide emerges when Americans are asked whether they approve of the United States' decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan in 1945.
Six in 10 Americans 65 and older approve of the use of the atomic bomb at the end of World War II, while six in 10 from 18 to 29 disapprove.
Albert Kauzmann, a 57-year-old resident of Norcross, Ga., said using the bomb in 1945 "was the best way they had of ending" World War II.
Overall, 47 percent of those surveyed approved of dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki while 46 percent disapproved, according to the poll of 1,000 conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs from March 21-23 with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The United States, Britain, Russia, France and China have nuclear weapons, and Pakistan and India have also conducted nuclear tests. Many believe Israel has nuclear weapons, but that country has never acknowledged it. North Korea claimed in February that it had nuclear weapons.
The threat from nuclear terrorism is greatest, analysts say, because terrorists with nuclear weapons would feel little or no hesitance about using them. That's why those who monitor nuclear proliferation are so concerned about securing weapons stockpiles and dismantling weapons as quickly as possible.
"We're in the race of our lives," said Joe Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "and we're not running fast enough."