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  Library Opinion Polls Test Ban Test Ban Treaty Draws Strong Public Support

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Draws Stong Public Support, According to Review of Polls
Principal Investigator: Steven Kull
October 5, 1998

A review of all publicly available polling data by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes has found very strong public support for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty being considered by the U.S. Senate:

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The most recent poll shows overwhelming public support for ratifying the CTBT, cutting across partisan lines.

  • "The United States and 151 other countries have signed a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which would prohibit nuclear weapons test explosions worldwide. Do you think the United State Senate should approve or disapprove of this treaty?" (Mellman Group/WirthlinWorldwide, June 1999).

    Approve 82% Disapprove 14% Don't Know 4%

  • Support was 80% among Republicans and 86% among Democrats(Mellman/Wirthlin).

This support has been strong for some time.

"Do you think the President should push to get a nuclear test ban approved by 1995 or not?" (ICR Survey Research Group, January 1994)

Yes 80% No 16%   Don't Know 3%

When given the option to "vote" for hypothetical candidates, Americans strongly favored the candidate who supported the treaty.

  • Presented two hypothetical Senate candidates :
    • 62% favored the candidate who supported the treaty because "...the United States signed this Treaty almost three years ago and we should honor our promise... Many other countries will not implement this treaty unless we do... countries without nuclear weapons will continue their esfforts to develop them... Even underground explosions have released radioactive gas..."

    • 31% favored the candidate who opposed the treaty because "...the Treaty does not stop other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons and because we cannot be sure other countries are living up to theTreaty... we will be obligated to commit millions of dollars to implement it... China and Iran can always conduct nuclear tests in secret, meanwhile we will no longer be able to test our own nuclear arsenal..." (Mellman/Wirthlin, June 1999).

    An overwhelming majority thought that stopping nuclear proliferation should be a top priority among U.S. foreign policy goals.

    • Asked to rate a list of foreign policy goals, "preventing the spread of nuclear weapons" was ranked highest with 82% saying that it was "very important." (Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, October 1998). In a similar poll, 70% said it should be a "top priority" and rank edit above all other goals except "protecting American jobs." (PewResearch Center, July - September 1997).

    Support appears to be derived from the belief that new countries acquiring nuclear weapons would threaten world peace and the belief that terrorists will acquire and use nuclear weapons against U.S. cities.

    • In June 1998 (prior to testing by India and Pakistan), 83% said that "possession of nuclear weapons by" Iran "would pose a serious threat to world peace." 66% felt that way about Pakistan, and 47% about India.(CNN/USA Today, June 1998).

    • "Do you think there is much of a chance that terrorists could use a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon to attack a U.S. city, or don't you think there is much chance of this? (Pew Research Center, April1997)