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Americans' Ratings of North Korea Remain Highly Negative

Americans' Ratings of North Korea Remain Highly Negative

by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • N. Korea the least favorable country for second year in a row
  • Fifteen percent of Americans say N. Korea the "greatest enemy"
  • Most Americans perceive the state's military as critical threat

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' ratings of North Korea remain highly negative, with 9% rating the country favorably and 87% rating it unfavorably. North Korea has consistently ranked among the lowest-rated nations in Gallup's annual rankings for the past decade.

Americans' Favorability Rating of North Korea Since 2000

These latest data come from Gallup's Feb. 8-11 World Affairs poll. Like last year's poll, Iran's favorability (11%) was only slightly higher than North Korea's. The two nations have shared the bottom two spots in 10 of the last 11 times Gallup has ranked nations according to Americans' favorability ratings.

Americans' current favorability ratings come as the U.S. National Security Agency definitively identified North Korea as being behind a high-profile cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in late 2014. The country has also been accused of increasing the number of workers it sends abroad while seizing their wages in an effort to earn money amid economic sanctions from the international community.

This bad publicity has clearly reinforced 12 years of already negative attitudes toward North Korea rather than causing any major shift in opinions. In Gallup surveys conducted in 2000 and 2001, North Korea's favorability ratings were at their height, at 26% and 31%, respectively. A sharp drop in 2002 coincided with then-President George W. Bush's naming of the country in his State of the Union address as part of an "axis of evil." Americans' favorability of the country fell to a low of 8% in March 2003 and has not rebounded since.

Not surprisingly given its low favorable ratings, North Korea also ranks high when Americans are asked to name the country they perceive to be the United States' greatest enemy. This year, 15% named North Korea, only slightly behind Russia at 18%.

What one country anywhere in the world do you consider to be the United States’ greatest enemy today? [OPEN-ENDED]

Most Americans Still View North Korean Military as Threat Under Kim Jong Un

Having taken rule in Pyongyang, North Korea, upon the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011, Kim Jong Un's leadership has not changed Americans' views of North Korea's military power.

While the elder Kim was in power in 2010, 61% of Americans viewed North Korean military power as a critical threat to the vital interests of the U.S. Not much has changed under the younger Kim in the latest poll, which found 64% Americans seeing the state's military as a critical threat. About one in four Americans (26%) view the military in North Korea as an "important, but not critical" threat, similar to the 29% who said so in 2010.

Americans' Views of North Korean Military Power as Critical Threat

Bottom Line

Given the consistently low favorability ratings North Korea has received for more than a decade, Americans' negativity is likely to persist unless there is a dramatic change in North Korea's policies. The recent change in the nation's leadership has not brought about a change so far in the human rights violations and antagonistic actions the country has taken toward the U.S. and other nations. In addition, Pyongyang hasn't budged as a result of international sanctions and continues to invest heavily in the state's military and nuclear capabilities.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 8-11, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 837 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

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