A majority of Americans favor deploying U.S. troops if North Korea attacks South Korea, poll finds
A large majority of Americans consider North Korea’s nuclear weapons program a critical threat toward the United States, according to a new poll.
However, they remain divided on which policy would best contain that threat — and, for the first time in almost 30 years, a majority of Americans were found to support military action if North Korea attacked South Korea.
The poll, conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, offers a glimpse of how Americans are responding to the rapidly evolving tensions with Pyongyang. Just two years ago, 55 percent of Americans listed North Korea as a critical threat facing the United States. Now 75 percent do, making it among the greatest perceived threats in the poll.
And notably, while many analysts now suggest that convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons may be impossible, few Americans think that should be an option. Only 21 percent say they would support an agreement that saw North Korea halt its nuclear program but not give up its existing weapons (17 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of Democrats).
Even fewer — 11 percent — say they’d be willing to accept a deal that would allow North Korea more nuclear weapons.
Despite the questionable success rate of sanctions already in place, 76 percent of Americans favor increasing sanctions on North Korea with strong bipartisan agreement (84 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats), while 68 percent support placing sanctions on Chinese banks and other businesses that do business with North Korea.
There are significant differences between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the use of force against North Korea. Notably, 54 percent of Republicans favor airstrikes against North Korean weapons facilities vs. 33 percent of Democrats. However, both the use of airstrikes and U.S. troops to attack such facilities were supported by a minority of Americans; 40 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
Sixty-two percent of Americans were found to support the use of U.S. troops if North Korea invaded South Korea — the first time since 1990 a majority favored supporting South Korea in this way — with a considerable support among Republicans (70 percent), Democrats (59 percent) and independents (61 percent). The Chicago Council suggested that the sense of a heightened threat from the north may have increased commitment to South Korea.
On Monday in the Philippines, North Korean’s foreign minister said his nation would never put its nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles on the negotiating table.
In a copy of a speech planned by Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, he also warned that the North was “ready to teach the U.S. a severe lesson with its nuclear strategic force” if American forces attacked. Ri was attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The latest poll findings of the poll largely echo those from a recent poll conducted for The Washington Post and ABC News. In that poll, a new high of 66 percent of Americans were found to believe North Korea posed a “serious threat” to the United States, though four out of 10 said they did not trust President Trump to handle the issue “at all.”
The Chicago Council’s analysis was based on survey data conducted by GfK Custom Research between June 27 and July 19. A total of 2,020 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia were surveyed, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
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Brian Murphy contributed to this story.