- Cyberterrorism ranks highest among “critical threats” to U.S. vital interests
- Over seven in 10 see nuclear weapons development by Iran, North Korea as critical
- Near record-high mentions of China’s military power as critical threat
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are more likely to regard cyberterrorism as a “critical threat” to U.S. vital interests than to say this about 10 other international matters. The development of nuclear weapons by Iran or by North Korea place second and third in Americans’ mentions of critical threats in the latest poll.
The findings are from Gallup’s World Affairs survey, conducted Feb. 1-23. Concern about international terrorism ranks next, followed closely by China as a military and, separately, an economic power.
Smaller majorities see the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global warming and Russia’s military power as critical threats to U.S. vital interests.
Ranking at the bottom are the illegal entry of immigrants into the U.S. and the conflict between Taiwan and China.
Notable Shifts This Year
- Views of China’s military and economic power as critical threats to U.S. vital security interests remain elevated after rising to a new high last year.
- On the other hand, views of Russia’s military as a critical threat have taken an opposite turn and declined from a high of 59% in 2022 to 51% today.
- Perceptions of the nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea remain high on the list but notably below the record highs of 83% seen in 2013 for both countries.
- While perceptions of the conflict between China and Taiwan are on the lower end of the list, the 47% now describing the threat as critical is the highest in Gallup’s polling that dates back to 2004, when 23% described it as such.
- More than half of Americans continue to describe climate change as a critical threat, currently four percentage points below the record high in 2021 of 58%.
- This is the first time in the trend dating back to 2004 that fewer than seven in 10 Americans have viewed international terrorism as a critical threat. In 2015, this concern hit a record high of 84%.
Behind Partisan Lines
Republicans and Democrats share similar perspectives on the severity of some international threats, particularly cyberterrorism and the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea, while viewing others quite differently.
The largest differences are for China’s military and economic power and for immigration -- all of which Republicans are much more likely to see as critical threats -- and climate change, which Democrats are much more likely to consider a threat.
Americans continue to cite cyberterrorism as the leading critical threat to U.S. vital security interests, as they have since 2021. Before that, international terrorism and the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea ranked highest. But concern about each of these has ebbed over the past decade.
Perceptions that China’s military and economic power pose critical threats to U.S. vital interests coincide with that nation’s mention as the greatest U.S. enemy by 50% of the U.S. public. Perceptions of Russia’s military power as a U.S. threat have declined as the nation has faced military setbacks in its war on Ukraine.
To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on Twitter.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.