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Global Poll Finds Varied Views on Nuclear Weapons
August 18, 2007
Poll Conducted by The Simons Foundation and Angus Reid Strategies

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Adults in the United States are more likely to condone the use of nuclear weapons during a conflict than their British or French counterparts, according to a six-country poll by The Simons Foundation and Angus Reid Strategies. 24.9 per cent of respondents in the U.S. think the use of nuclear arms in the context of an actual war is justified, while only 16.9 per cent of Britons and 15 per cent of French concur.

In addition, 37.1 per cent of French respondents back the use of nuclear weapons as a deterrent against a possible attack, along with 28.6 per cent of Britons and 20.2 per cent of Americans.

The six-country poll assessed the views of citizens in three countries that possess nuclear weapons—Britain, France and the United States—as well as another—Israel—which has refused to openly discuss its nuclear capabilities. The views of adults in Germany and Italy—two North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members who participate in the military alliance’s nuclear sharing concept—were also included.

In Germany, 76.9 per cent of respondents believe the use of nuclear weapons by NATO would never be justified. In Italy, 69.9 per cent of respondents also reject the use of nuclear arms by the military alliance. In Israel, more than 70 per cent of respondents think their country would be justified in deploying its purported nuclear arsenal, either during a conflict or as a deterrent.

Nuclear weapons have only been used in war time in 1945, when the U.S. dropped two bombs over Japan. At least 100,000 people died in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts, and many more over time due to the effects of radiation.

Before the start of 2005, seven countries in the world—Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia and the U.S.—had acknowledged possessing nuclear arsenals. Under the "strategic ambiguity" policy, Israel has refused to publicly discuss its purported nuclear capabilities. In February 2005, the government of North Korea admitted publicly for the first time that it possesses nuclear weapons.

This week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hold its annual conference in Vienna, Austria. On Sept. 16, IAEA director general Mohammed El-Baradei said he is committed to the enforcement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), saying, "The IAEA is fully aware of its responsibility. (…) Still we need to address these concerns through diplomatic means."

Polling Data

a) Do you think the use of nuclear weapons by (your country) would be justified? – Asked in Britain, France and the United States

 

BRI

FRA

USA

Yes, in the context of an actual war

16.9%

15.0%

24.9%

Yes, as a deterrent against a possible attack

28.6%

37.1%

20.2%

No, it would never be justified

48.8%

43.4%

40.4%

Not sure

5.7%

4.5%

14.5%

b) Do you think the use of nuclear weapons by NATO would be justified? – Asked in Germany and Italy

 

ITA

GER

Yes, in the context of an actual war

9.6%

11.7%

Yes, as a deterrent against a possible attack

18.4%

8.4%

No, it would never be justified

69.9%

76.9%

Not sure

2.1%

3.0%

c) Under the "strategic ambiguity" policy, Israel has refused to publicly discuss its purported nuclear capabilities. Do you think the use of nuclear weapons by Israel would be justified? – Asked in Israel

 

ISR

Yes, in the context of an actual war

34.9%

Yes, as a deterrent against a possible attack

36.7%

No, it would never be justified

21.6%

Not sure

6.8%


Source: The Simons Foundation / Angus Reid Strategies
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,000 adults in Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, and the United States, conducted from Jul. 26 to Aug. 8, 2007. Margin of error for each country is 3.1 per cent.