November 3, 2017

Increasing Public Concern Over North Korea’s Nuclear Capability, Intentions

84% say Trump is willing to use military force against N. Korea

Survey Report

As Donald Trump sets off on his visit to Asia, the public has become increasingly concerned over North Korea’s capability and its willingness to use nuclear weapons against the United States.   

About seven-in-ten Americans (71%) say the U.S. should take North Korea’s nuclear threats “very seriously,” up from 56% in 2013.

And more say North Korea is capable of reaching the U.S. with a nuclear missile – and is “really willing” to follow through on threats to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. – than did so four years ago.

The new Pew Research Center survey, conducted Oct. 25-30 among 1,504 adults, also finds that an overwhelming majority (84%) say Donald Trump is “really willing to use military force against North Korea.”

There are, at most, modest partisan and demographic differences in views of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and intentions. Nearly identical shares of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (66%) and Democrats and Democratic leaners (65%) say North Korea’s leaders are really willing to follow through on its threat to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. In 2013, 56% of Republicans and just 38% of Democrats said that about North Korea’s leadership.  

And substantial majorities in both parties – and across all demographic categories – say Donald Trump is willing to use military force against North Korea. Nearly nine-in-ten Republicans (88%) say Trump is “really willing” to use military force, as do 83% of Democrats.

By contrast, there are deep partisan differences in confidence in Trump’s ability to handle the situation with North Korea. Among the public overall, 39% say they are very or somewhat confident in Trump’s handling of this situation; 13% are not too confident and 46% are not at all confident.

Fully 80% of Republicans and Republican leaners say they are at least somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to handle the situation in North Korea, compared with just 9% of Democrats and Democratic leaners. (These views, along with other attitudes about Trump and congressional leaders, were released in this Nov. 2 report: “Declining Confidence in Trump, Lower Job Ratings for Congressional Leaders.”)