Americans Favor Diplomacy With North Korea, Not Military Action

by Frank Newport

More than 8 of 10 favor diplomacy or doing nothing at this time

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the United States should explore diplomatic solutions in response to the North Korean missile tests last week, rather than launching either an air or ground military attack. The latest USA Today/Gallup Poll also shows that -- despite North Korea's failed missile launch and the attention it has received in the news since -- Americans' already negative views of North Korea have not changed materially. Additionally, very few Americans say the North Korean situation is the nation's most important problem.

The Gallup Poll, conducted July 6-9, 2006, included a question asking Americans to choose among four alternatives for dealing with North Korea:

As you may know, this past week North Korea test-launched a series of missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. If you had to choose, what should the United States do to get North Korea to stop the testing and development of these missiles -- [ROTATED: exert diplomatic pressure and impose economic sanctions on North Korea, launch military air-strikes or missile attacks against North Korea, (or) invade North Korea with ground troops from the U.S. and other countries] -- or should the U.S. not do anything?

Exert
diplomatic
pressure/
impose
economic
sanctions


Launch
air-
strikes/
missile
attacks



Invade
with
ground
troops





Not do
anything





No
opinion

2006 Jul 6-9

72

9

3

10

6

There is obviously little appetite for either of the two military options given in this question formulation. Only 9% would opt for launching air or missile strikes, while a very small 3% of Americans advocate invading North Korea with ground troops.

On the other hand, more than seven out of ten Americans say that the U.S. should exert diplomatic pressure and impose economic sanctions on North Korea, while another 10% say that the U.S. should do nothing about the situation at this time.

Despite the intense publicity given to last week's North Korean missile test and the reaction of the rest of the world, there has been almost no immediate change in Americans' views of North Korea, at least as of this past weekend.

One out of five Americans say that North Korea is an immediate threat to the U.S., identical to the views of the American public back in November 2004:

Which comes closest to your view -- [ROTATED: North Korea poses an immediate threat to the United States, North Korea poses a long-term threat to the U.S., but not an immediate threat, or North Korea does not pose a threat to the United States at all]?

Imm-
ediate
threat

Long-
term
threat

Does not
pose
a threat

No
opinion

2006 Jul 6-9 ^

20

59

15

5

2004 Nov 19-21 †

20

60

15

5

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1 †

15

62

16

7

2003 Mar 14-15 ^

23

63

12

2

^ Asked of a half sample

† Asked in a rotation with the same question about the threat posed to the U.S. by Iran.

This "immediate threat" question is quite illuminating. An interested observer certainly could be excused for thinking that the number of Americans viewing North Korea as an immediate threat to the U.S. would have increased after last week's news.

But this type of change in attitudes simply didn't happen: There have been some minor fluctuations in response to this question over the last four years, but nothing significant. As noted, this summer's readings are almost identical to what was found in November 2004.

Another basic question used by Gallup over the years has asked sample respondents to classify a list of countries as allies, friendly but not allies, unfriendly, or as enemies of the United States.

The responses in relationship to North Korea show little change over the last three years, a time period in which this question was asked four times:

North Korea:


Ally

Friendly
not an
ally


Un-
friendly


Enemy

No
opinion

2006 Jul 6-9

2

10

34

47

7

2003 Sep 19-21

5

7

39

44

5

2003 Apr 22-23

2

11

36

45

6

2003 Mar 14-15 ^

2

5

43

46

4

2000 May 18-21

6

26

35

24

9

^ Asked of a half sample

A little less than half of Americans consider North Korea to be an enemy, roughly the same as measured across the four times this question has been asked since March 2003. Most of the rest consider North Korea to be unfriendly. As can be seen, the American public did have more negative impressions towards North Korea in early 2003 compared to May 2000. Still, these responses show little impact of the recent events on Americans' views of North Korea.

The July 6-9 poll included Gallup's monthly update of Americans' perceptions of the most important problem facing the country today. Only 2% of respondents voluntarily indicated that the North Korean situation was the most important problem, underscoring the conclusion that the events of last week have yet to make a big difference in the way Americans are viewing the world today.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 6-9, 2006. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup's nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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