skip to main content
Cyberterrorism, Iran's Nuclear Gains Concern Americans Most

Cyberterrorism, Iran's Nuclear Gains Concern Americans Most

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than three-quarters of Americans view cyberterrorism (79%) and the development of nuclear weapons by Iran (77%) as critical threats to U.S. vital interests, making these the top concerns of 13 global issues rated in Gallup’s annual World Affairs survey. Close behind, North Korea’s nuclear program is seen as a critical threat by 73% and international terrorism by 71%.

At the other end of the spectrum, 40% of Americans consider the conflict between North and South Korea a critical threat. Global warming is the only other risk measured that less than half of Americans (49%) consider critical.

Few Americans rate any of the issues as “not an important threat at all” to U.S. vital interests, but one in four say this about global warming/climate change and 14% about immigrants entering the U.S. illegally.


Gallup first asked this question in 2004 and has updated it periodically, with some changes to the issues measured as events warrant. The latest results are from Gallup’s Feb. 1-20 World Affairs poll.

Concern About China’s Economy Eases, Picks Up on Immigration

The biggest changes in Americans’ risk assessments since February 2023 involve China’s economy and U.S. immigration.

  • The percentage viewing China’s economic power as a critical threat declined 13 points over the past year, the largest shift for any issue measured in the 2024 survey. This could reflect both Americans’ modestly improved confidence in the U.S. economy over that time as well as recent news about China experiencing an economic slowdown.
  • As Gallup reported previously, a record-high 55% of Americans, up eight points from a year ago, believe that large numbers of immigrants entering the U.S. illegally represent a critical threat.

Additionally, the proportions saying global warming and cyberterrorism pose a critical threat have each declined five points since last February.

  • The 49% of Americans now considering global warming a critical threat is down from 54% and is the lowest in the trend since it was added in 2016. The highest percentage viewing it this seriously was 58% in 2021.
  • The 79% seeing cyberterrorism -- defined in the survey as the use of computers to cause disruption or fear in society -- as a critical threat compares with 84% a year ago. After an initial 73% “critical threat” rating for this issue in 2016, concern rose to 81% in 2018 and had remained above that level until now.

Several longer-term changes in Americans’ perceptions of global threats to the nation’s interests, since 2004, are also noteworthy:

  • The military power of Russia and China and the China-Taiwan conflict are much more likely to be viewed as critical threats today than when Gallup first asked about each in 2004.
  • Concern is now lower for international terrorism and the conflict between North and South Korea compared with the 2004 readings.
  • About half of Americans (52%) now see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a critical threat to U.S. interests, up from 35% the last time it was measured, in 2022. However, the current level still doesn’t match the high point of 58% recorded in 2004.

Partisans Disagree About Threats From Global Warming, Immigration, China

Republicans and Democrats agree on the critical threat posed by some issues more than others.

Large percentages of both party groups, as well as most independents, believe that cyberterrorism and North Korea’s nuclear program represent critical threats to the U.S. About half in each group also see Russia’s military power and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as critical. Slightly less than half of Republicans and Democrats, as well as a third of independents, believe the conflict between North and South Korea is critical.

Majorities of all party groups agree that China’s military power, Iran’s nuclear weapons program and international terrorism represent critical threats to the U.S., but the rates are much higher among Republicans than Democrats or independents.

Large majorities of Republicans versus far less than half of Democrats consider the threats posed by immigrants entering the U.S. illegally and China’s economic power to be critical. Republicans and Democrats also hold substantively different views on the China-Taiwan conflict, with a solid majority of Republicans versus less than half of Democrats saying this poses a critical threat.

Democrats (63%) are more likely than Republicans (51%) and independents (50%) to consider the Russia-Ukraine conflict as critical. And there is a major difference (63 points) between Democrats’ and Republicans’ views of the seriousness of global warming, as well as between Democrats and independents (36 points).


Bottom Line

The ever-changing nature of global affairs means that Americans’ perceptions of the threat posed by specific countries or regional conflicts vary over time. Americans are more than twice as likely today as two decades ago to see Russia’s military and the China-Taiwan conflict as critical threats. After subsiding for a period, concern about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has again flared, nearly matching the prior high. And after a record surge in migrants crossing the U.S. Southern border in 2023, concern about immigration has risen to a new high.

At the same time, terrorism in its various forms and the prospect of U.S. adversaries obtaining nuclear weapons loom large as global concerns, consistently ranking ahead of all other potential threats.

To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on X.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).


Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030