Go to Home Page
  Library Opinion Polls Nuclear Weapons U.S. Public Opinion Poll on Nuclear Weapons

U.S. Public Opinion Poll on Nuclear Weapons

The American people are strongly in favor of eliminating all nuclear weapons. In a poll of Americans conducted by Lake Sosin Snell & Associates for Abolition 2000, we explored the public's attitudes toward nuclear weapons1. The following memo briefly lays out findings.

Printer Friendly


The U.S. spends too much on nuclear weapons

  • Most Americans disagree with current levels of spending on nuclear weapons when the simple question is posed to them. A majority of Americans, 53 percent, feel that the United States spends too much building and maintaining nuclear weapons. About a third, 32 percent, feel that we are currently spending about the right amount, while 6 percent feel we are spending too little and 9 percent are unsure.

  • Majorities of both men and women think too much is being spent. Younger Americans are more inclined to disagree with spending levels than older voters. While majorities of all voters under the age of 55 feel we spend too much on building and maintaining nuclear weapons, disagreement diminishes in nearly a straight line as age increases. Those under 34 years of age are much more likely to feel too much is spent on nuclear weapons (59 percent) than those who are over 65 years of age (36 percent). The oldest voters are more inclined to feel that the right amount is spent (44 percent). No subset of the electorate feels that we spend too little on nuclear weapons.

  • African-Americans and Hispanics are more inclined than whites to feel too much is spent on nuclear weapons. While majorities of every race agree too much is spent building and maintaining nuclear weapons, minorities have more intense emotions with 62 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Hispanics, compared to 51 percent of whites agreeing that spending is too high.

  • Most people also disagree with the government's current spending priorities. A broad majority, 74 percent, disagree with the fact that the U.S. government spends more on building and maintaining its nuclear weapons than it spends providing head start programs, fighting illiteracy and providing college scholarships combined. Fifty-three percent (53 percent) strongly disagree with this set of priorities. Just 7 percent strongly agree with this fiscal priority, 15 percent somewhat agree, and 4 percent aren't certain.

  • Americans disagree with these spending priorities regardless of party identification. Seventy-six percent (76 percent) each of Democrats and independents disagree with spending more on nuclear weapons than the other programs mentioned, as well as 68 percent of Republicans who disagree.

  • Americans are opposed to their tax dollars being used to fund the development of new nuclear weapons. More than three-quarters, 77 percent, oppose the U.S. spending $40 billion of their tax dollars on these weapons, with 56 percent strongly opposed to this expenditure.

  • Women are more opposed to tax dollars being spent on nuclear weapons development, and feel more intense about the subject than men. Eighty-two percent of women oppose the design and development of new nuclear weapons (61 percent strongly oppose), but 72 percent of men are also opposed (51 percent strongly opposed).

  • Younger and minority voters are among the most opposed to tax dollars being spent to develop new nuclear weapons. Nearly all of the youngest voters, 91 percent of those aged 18 to 24 years, oppose this budget item, as do 86 percent of African-Americans and 82 percent of Hispanics.

  • A strong majority of Republicans are opposed to spending taxes on new nuclear weapons development. Two-thirds of Republicans, (67 percent) oppose spending their tax dollars in this way. Democrats and independents agree, as 82 and 81 percent respectively oppose the $40 billion dollar expenditure.

Surprisingly, Americans Are Ready to Eliminate All Nuclear Weapons

  • Most Americans would feel safest knowing that no country had nuclear weapons. More than eight-in-ten voters, 84 percent, would feel safer if they knew for sure that no country -- including the United States -- had nuclear weapons. Only 12 percent feel safer knowing that the U.S. and other countries have nuclear weapons. All Americans, regardless of age, gender, race, education, party identification and income would feel safer in the absence of nuclear weapons.

  • In addition, there is strong support for eliminating all nuclear weapons. More than three-quarters (77 percent) favor the elimination of all nuclear weapons, and 64 percent of Americans strongly favor elimination of all nuclear weapons. Only 21 percent of Americans oppose the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

  • Nearly equal numbers of each party support eliminating nuclear weapons. More than three-quarters of Democrats (77 percent, 65 percent strongly favor), Republicans (76 percent, 60 percent strongly) and independents (79 percent, 67 percent strongly) favor the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

  • Americans are just as likely to want to eliminate nuclear weapons when military leaders who favor disarmament weigh in on the subject. Given a statement by General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command along with other retired generals and admirals who are in favor of eliminating nuclear weapons, a total of 76 percent of Americans favor elimination, with 60 percent strongly favoring elimination. Again, just 21 percent oppose the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

  • After hearing the information about General Butler, the gender gap grows between women and men where women are more in favor of eliminating all nuclear weapons. Women are 10 points more likely to support disarmament than their male counterparts after hearing this information (81 to 71 percent), where on the general question there is no significant difference between the sexes (79 percent of women to 76 percent of men favoring disarmament).


Americans Are Ready for Stronger Agreements to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

  • The vast majority of Americans want an agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons. A whopping 87 percent of Americans agree that we need agreements to eliminate nuclear weapons, similar to those negotiated and signed to eliminate chemical and biological weapons. Sixty-eight percent (68 percent) strongly agree that we should be negotiating such an agreement, while just one-in-ten (10 percent) do not agree that we should negotiate an agreement.

  • A plurality of Americans perceive Russia to be an ally of the United States; a quarter see them as an enemy. When thinking about Russia, 47 percent consider them to be our ally, while 23 percent say they are still our enemy. Eighteen percent (18 percent) volunteer that they are neither our enemy nor our ally, 5 percent think they are both our enemy and our ally, and 7 percent don't know.

  • Age is the greatest factor in determining whether Russia is seen as an enemy or an ally. Younger voters believe they are our ally (70 percent of 18 to 24 year olds), while older voters are more inclined to see them as the enemy. For example, Americans age 55 to 64 split, with 35% believing that Russia is our enemy and 31% our ally. Americans over 65 reflect the impact of their own unique history with Russia -- 35% see them as an ally, 25% an enemy, and 29% neither or both.

1 Methodology: These findings are based on a poll conducted for Lake Sosin Snell & Associates, March 27-30, 1997. The survey was called by paid, trained, professionally supervised interviewers using a replicated, stratified random digit dial process. These results include complete responses from 1006 American households. The maximum margin of error for this sample is +/- 3.1 percent.

US Public Opinion Poll on Nuclear Weapons

Do you think that the United States spends too much, too little or about the right amount building and maintaining nuclear weapons?

The U.S. government spends more on building and maintaining its nuclear weapons than on providing head start education programs, fighting illiteracy, and providing college scholarships combined. When thinking about how the government decides to spend money, would you say that you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with this spending priority?

Do you feel safer knowing that the U.S. and other countries have nuclear weapons, or would you feel safer if you knew for sure that no country including the U.S. had nuclear weapons?

Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the United States spending $40 billion of your tax dollars to design and develop new nuclear weapons?

The U.S. has negotiated and signed agreements to eliminate biological and chemical weapons. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree the U.S. should negotiate an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons?

Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the elimination of all nuclear weapons?"

Recently, General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, and 60 other retired generals and admirals released a statement saying, "The continuing existence of nuclear weapons constitutes a peril to peace and security." With the end of the cold war, General Butler and other military leaders are now in favor of eliminating all nuclear weapons.

Given this information, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the elimination of all nuclear weapons?

When you think about Russia today, do you consider Russia to be an enemy or an ally of the United States?