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Americans' Opinions of U.S.-North Korea Relations Less Negative

Americans' Opinions of U.S.-North Korea Relations Less Negative

Story Highlights

  • 46% describe North Korea as enemy, down from 58% in 2013
  • 17% regard North Korea as an ally or friendly nation
  • Democrats are more negative than Republicans about North Korea

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' views of U.S.-North Korea relations remain negative, but less so than at their peak five years ago. Forty-six percent of Americans now describe North Korea as an enemy of the U.S., down from 58% in 2013. Meanwhile, the percentage regarding North Korea as an unfriendly nation rather than an enemy has risen, from 26% to 33%, as has the percentage viewing it positively, from 10% to 17%.

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The latest results, from a July 2-8 Gallup poll, come after last month's high-profile summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and amid continuing high-level talks aimed at denuclearizing the Asian nation. To date, there has been little apparent progress toward that goal, though both leaders remain publicly optimistic.

The percentage describing North Korea as a U.S. enemy has fallen back to the levels measured in 2003 through 2006, in the years after President George W. Bush branded the nation as part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq. Significantly more Americans now view North Korea as a friendly nation (15%) than did so during that period.

But Americans' opinions of North Korea are still more negative than they were in prior Gallup polling from 2000, during a moratorium on nuclear testing tied to continued negotiations with the U.S. Five months before then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited North Korea, 32% of Americans described the country as an ally or friendly nation, with 35% calling it unfriendly and 24% an enemy.

Since 2013, when North Korea announced it would continue its nuclear testing and described the U.S. as "the sworn enemy of the Korean people," Republicans' opinions of North Korea have changed the most. The percentage of Republicans who describe North Korea as an enemy of the U.S. has fallen 22 percentage points, from 64% to 42%, in the past five years. Independents are also significantly less likely to say North Korea is an enemy, with a decline of 14 points (59% to 45%). Democrats are about as likely as they were in 2013 to believe North Korea is an enemy.

Republicans' opinions about the state of U.S.-North Korea relations are now the least negative they have been since 2000. Nearly as many today (20%) as in 2000 (24%) regard it as an ally or friendly nation.

Independents and Democrats view North Korea similarly to how they did in 2006. Notably, both groups were more likely to think of North Korea as a friendly nation in 2000 than as an enemy.

Americans' Views of North Korea, by Political Party
2000 2003 2006 2013 2018
% % % % %
Republicans
Ally/Friendly 24 9 9 8 20
Unfriendly 37 36 31 24 34
Enemy 32 50 51 64 42
Independents
Ally/Friendly 32 11 14 11 16
Unfriendly 36 42 34 25 32
Enemy 23 44 46 59 45
Democrats
Ally/Friendly 38 14 14 10 15
Unfriendly 33 41 36 31 32
Enemy 17 41 47 54 52
Note: 2003 data based on average of three polls
Gallup

One in Four Americans Believe North Korea Is an Immediate Threat

A separate question in the poll asked the public to say whether North Korea represents an immediate threat to the U.S., a long-term threat or no threat. The vast majority of Americans regard North Korea as a threat, with 26% saying it is an immediate threat and 58% a long-term threat. Thirteen percent do not perceive it as a threat.

Democrats (33%) are more likely than Republicans (23%) and independents (21%) to say North Korea is an immediate threat. Half as many Democrats (8%) as Republicans and independents (both 16%) do not consider North Korea a threat.

Perceptions of North Korea as a Threat to the U.S.
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]?
U.S. adults Republicans Independents Democrats
% % % %
Immediate threat 26 23 21 33
Long-term threat 58 60 61 56
Not a threat 13 16 16 8
July 2-8, 2018
Gallup

Gallup has asked this question before, though not since 2006. As a result, it is unclear to what degree recent events may have affected public opinion on this measure. The percentage who believe North Korea represents an immediate threat is slightly higher than what Gallup has measured in the past, including 20% in 2006 and 23% in 2003.

The 33% of Democrats who now say North Korea is an immediate threat is higher than Gallup has previously measured for any party group. No more than 25% of Republicans, 23% of independents or 24% of Democrats considered North Korea an immediate threat in four separate surveys conducted between 2003 and 2006.

Implications

Americans remain wary of North Korea, despite the recent historic meeting between the nations' leaders. But Americans are slightly less negative about North Korea than they were in the past, with a sharp drop since 2013 in the percentage calling it an enemy and the highest percentage viewing it as a friendly nation, if not an ally, since 2000. Republicans, given their confidence in Trump, have shown the biggest shifts in opinion over the past five years, while Democrats' opinions have changed little.

Many have criticized the agreement that Trump and Kim signed at the summit as being overly vague. Further, it is unclear whether North Korea and the U.S. agree on what North Korean "denuclearization" entails. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was unable to secure a meeting with the North Korean leader while visiting the country. Though Pompeo reported the U.S. had made progress in talks with other North Korean officials, those leaders described the U.S. as having a "regrettable attitude" during negotiations.

Americans, then, appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to determine whether North Korea and the U.S. forge an agreement to limit North Korea's ability to use nuclear weapons against other nations. North Korea has agreed to deals in the past, including one calling for the cessation of its nuclear weapons program, only to violate the agreement and continue developing and testing the technology.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 2-8, 2018, on the Gallup U.S. Poll, with a random sample of 1,291 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 ±3 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.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Poll works.

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