58% would back military action against North Korea if peaceful means fail
Support is significantly higher than in prior measure, from 2003
Half still think situation can be resolved with sanctions and diplomacy
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As North Korea continues to launch test missiles and
issue provocative threats against the U.S. and its allies in the region,
a majority of Americans appear ready to support military action against
that country, at least as a last resort. More specifically, 58% say they
would favor taking military action against North Korea if economic and
diplomatic efforts fail to achieve the United States' goals. This
is significantly higher than the 47% in favor the last time Gallup asked
this, in 2003.
Americans' Support for Military Action Against North Korea
If the United States does not accomplish its goals regarding North Korea
with economic and diplomatic efforts, would you favor or oppose using
military action against North Korea?
Sep 6-10, 2017
Jan 3-5, 2003
U.S. attitudes about striking North Korea are partisan, as they were in
2003. Eighty-two percent of Republicans in the Sept. 6-10 Gallup poll
say they would favor military action if peaceful means fail, compared
with 37% of Democrats.
The percentage of Democrats who favor military action has hardly changed
since 2003: 37% now vs. 41% then. The major shift has been among Republicans,
whose support for military action is up 23 percentage points, while independents'
support is up 15 points.
Longstanding tensions over North Korea's nuclear program came to the
surface in 2002, when George W. Bush described North Korea as "a
regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving
its citizens." He also grouped it with Iran and Iraq as part of an
"axis of evil" that was "arming to threaten the peace of
Later that year, North Korea revealed it had been maintaining a nuclear
program in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and soon
afterward, in January 2003, Gallup first measured Americans' views
about how to handle the regime.
At that time, 72% of Americans were optimistic that the situation involving
North Korea could be resolved using only economic and diplomatic efforts.
Far fewer today, 50%, believe nonmilitary pressure can work, while nearly
as many, 45%, are skeptical.
Americans Less Optimistic in 2017 Than in 2003 About Resolving Situation
With North Korea Peacefully
Do you think the situation involving North Korea can be successfully resolved
using only economic and diplomatic efforts, or not?
Yes, can be
Sep 6-10, 2017
Jan 3-5, 2003
Notably, there is a strong relationship between Americans' views on
the effectiveness of diplomacy and their support for taking military action
against North Korea. Those who are skeptical of the value of diplomacy
are more likely than those who believe diplomacy can work to say they
would favor using military action if peaceful means fail -- 75% vs. 43%,
Americans Still Think North Korea Is Bluffing
Despite North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's fiery rhetoric in recent
months about destroying the U.S. mainland, far less than half of Americans,
38%, consider it likely that North Korea will take military action against
the U.S. in the next six months. This is up from 28% in the prior measure
from 2013 but is still the distinct minority view.
Americans Still Doubt Military Attack on U.S. by North Korea Is Imminent
From what you know or have read, do you think it is likely or not likely
that North Korea will take military action to attack the United States
in the next six months?
Sep 6-10, 2017
Apr 2-3, 2013 ^ †
^ Asked of a half sample; † Asked on Gallup Daily tracking survey
Regardless, news about North Korea's recent testing of missiles and
nuclear weapons has certainly caught Americans' attention. The 83%
saying they have been following the story very or somewhat closely is
among the highest for any major news story Gallup has measured, ranking 15th out of more than 200 stories rated since 1991.
In a change from 2003, a majority of U.S. adults say they would favor military
action against North Korea to achieve the United States' goals if
peaceful means fail. A sharp increase in support among Republicans --
possibly mirroring President Donald Trump's promise to respond with
"fire and fury" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's threats
-- explains much of this.
Since 2003, Americans have also become less optimistic that economic and
diplomatic pressure can resolve the situation, but half still believe
this. Thus, while Americans are willing to support military action as
a last resort, they evidently don't believe the situation has reached
that point. However, this could be the linchpin in Americans' attitudes
about the region. If Americans come to believe that sanctions and diplomacy
are futile, support for pre-emptive military action could rise.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted
Sept. 6-10, 2017, with a random sample of 1,022 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 70% cellphone
respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas
by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are
selected using random-digit-dial methods.