April 12th, 2010
02:35 PM ET
2 years ago

CNN Poll: Public divided on eliminating all nuclear weapons

Americans are split on President Obama's goal of eliminating all of the world's nuclear weapons.
Americans are split on President Obama's goal of eliminating all of the world's nuclear weapons.

Washington (CNN) - Americans are split on President Obama's goal of eliminating all of the world's nuclear weapons, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday. But the survey also indicates the public overwhelmingly agrees with the mission of the president's nuclear summit this week to keep those weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

Seventy-seven percent of people questioned in the poll say that preventing terrorists from getting nuclear weapons is more important than reducing the number of nuclear weapons controlled by government that are unfriendly to the U.S. According to the survey, 55 percent say that it is likely that terrorists will attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons within the next decade, but less than four in ten think that an all-out nuclear is likely.

"Most Americans are worried about terrorists with nuclear weapons and they see 'loose nukes' as the top priority for the government's nuclear policy," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.


The survey comes as President Barack Obama met individually with some visiting foreign leaders before the start of a two-day summit of 47 nations that will focus on how to better safeguard nuclear weapons materials, both old and new, and keep them out of the hands of terrorists.

The poll indicates Americans are divided on Obama's long-term goals, with half saying eliminating all nuclear arms is most desirable, and 49 percent saying that a few major countries, including the U.S., should have enough nuclear weapons to prevent an attack from another nation. According to the survey, there's a generational divide and a gender gap on this question.

"Fifty-eight percent of women favor the elimination of all nuclear weapons, but most men don't share that view," says Holland. "People under 50 also call for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, but people over 50 - who are more likely to remember the Cold War - think that the U.S. and a few other countries should retain their nuclear arms."

In 1988, the same question produced a 56 percent to 41 percent margin in favor of eliminating all nuclear weapons. According to that poll, only a quarter of Americans think it is possible to get rid of nuclear weapons worldwide. That is also a change from the late 1980s, when more than a third of all Americans said that it was possible to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

The poll indicates that the vast majority of Americans say the Senate should ratify a nuclear arms treaty that the president recently signed with Russia. Seven in ten say the pact, which would reduce both countries' nuclear stockpiles, should be approved by senators. But the survey suggests a partisan divide on the question. The Constitution requires a two-thirds Senate majority to ratify treaties.

"Eighty-seven percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents call for Senate ratification of the treaty," says Holland. "But Republicans are split right down the middle - 49 percent to 49 percent - on the treaty, and that may be crucial since ratification will require a 'yes' vote from at least eight GOP Senators."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 9-11, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three points.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: CNN poll • Nuclear weapons • Popular Posts
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Sadly, some Americans do not understand that we have thousands of nuclear warheads, and that we do not need thousands to defend ourselves. Conservatives live in fear, poor people. They believe the solution is always war.

    IF any country uses their nukes, we will ALL suffer the consequences of a severely damaged Earth.

    And I for one, would love to be there when the pro-war Christians explain themselves to a loving God.

    April 12, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. Dan Holiday

    The liberal/democrat talking points on this board are brought to you by democrat operatives who are paid to post on these and other forums throughout the internet. The rantings are nothing but propaganda and talking points O.K.ed by the Democrat National Committee. They do this to try and sway the minds of actual Americans whom look at these posts. It is part of the democrat election machine. Look at other boards to verify what I am saying. You will see the same people posting over and over. The closer we get to the election cycle; the more you will see this. Please ignore these posts and educate yourselves regarding the issues at hand. Do not think for a moment that these people represent the majority of Americans. Once again…these people are paid good money to leave messages on various message boards throughout the internet on behalf of the DNC. Thank you for reading this.

    April 12, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  3. John

    CNN Poll: Public divided on eliminating all nuclear weapons

    Oh, I'm not divided about it at all.

    Target one of those aging ICBMs right onto the spot where those Tea Parrot clowns hold their next meeting out in the desert.

    April 12, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  4. Henry Rutgers

    Obama's ideas are so crazy that Ronald Reagan was for them..... and Republicans were for them, before they were against it. (because a democrat is for them, is president, and is half black).

    The practical reduction is a 1/3 cut, which oddly is the exact same proportion as Reagan proposed (while the Soviet Union still existed and was a much bigger threat).

    April 12, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. Marge

    Republicans are so blantantly trying to undermine the president of the United States they will stop at nothing. Even trying to cause the prolification of nuclear weapons. Obama did not go as far as Reagan went to try to put the brakes on the making and owning of nuclear weapons. But the hate and violent urging of the republicans is trying their darnest to make it look as if he is weak. REAGAN WAS WEAKER. REAGAN WAS WEAKER...GET THAT THRU YOUR IDIOT HEADS MSM.

    But then if you didn't try to cause trouble you wouldn't be able to kiss republican but would you. It is a shame that organizations that are looking out for the interest of this country don't just latch on to the lies CNN is starting to make trying to take the place of Fox to be the most outrageous republican infomerical cable network. We have formed such an organization and we do have some lawyers that are scrutinizing every single thing CNN and Fox says and prints. That way we can take it to the FCC, sue and get the license removed of these lying sneaking republican organizations.

    And it won't do any good to ignore this post and put it under your "'this message is being reviewed by the moderator"""...we don't care. These type of messages are being posted all over the net. Not only our organization but several others are looking at all CNN messages and utterances. And the lies are stacking up, when we get enough we are going to the FBI, the CIA and the FCC.

    April 12, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  6. JonDie

    Nuclear weapons are of absolutely no use against terrorist organizations, and massacring thousands of civilians to kill a terrorist would make US just as bad as the terrorists. But I can certainly see the appeal of nuclear weapons to many Christians and Muslims and all the other apocalyptic cults of hate and destruction.

    April 12, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. get real

    This is important to repeat so the party of no hears it...say it slowly with me..."the vast majority of Americans say the Senate should ratify a nuclear arms treaty that the president recently signed with Russia."

    April 12, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. Annoyed

    dude, we still will have approx 10000 nuclear weapons. we can pretty detroy the world several times over.

    April 12, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    "But Republicans are split right down the middle – 49 percent to 49 percent – on the treaty, and that may be crucial since ratification will require a 'yes' vote from at least eight GOP Senators."
    __________________________________________________

    Question for GOPers. How MANY nukes will it take to destroy the world?

    P.S. When you figure that out, you can have a say in what should be done with the remaining stockpile . . .

    April 12, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. Terry From West Texas

    The US and Russia still have hundreds of times more nukes than other nations. The old Cold War concept was mutual deterrence. No nation could afford to launch a nuclear attack because the retaliation would destroy the aggressor. Terrorists are not deterred by nukes.

    Let us suppose that someone detonated a nuclear explosion or a dirty nuclear weapon in Salt Lake City. Or Guantanamo Bay? Or the Panama Canal? Or Telaviv? Or Baghdad?

    What would you do? We don't know who the enemy is for sure. We do know that the enemy lives among a population of innocent civilians. We also know that dropping one of our bombs on Afghanistan or Tehran will kill a lot of innocent people and maybe not a single guilty one (knowing that this was coming, they all spread out and dug in).

    Nukes do not deter terrorists and they are crappy weapons for retaliation. We'd render target cities uninhabitable for centuries over the theological dispute of the moment. Remember, Iran used to be our ally and Iraq was our enemy.

    April 12, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Oh emmm geee!!!! Be afraid!!! Teh marxist communist socialist muslim from Kenya is going to sell all our nukes at a garage sale to bin Laden and the Taliban so he can keep them out of the hands of the Tealiban when the Teatards takes over teh countries in November like they say they is gonna do!!! Where's his burf surtifikate??? OMGs!!! WMDs!!!! Pass the Tea!!!! Be afraid or you're not paying attention!!! hide under your bed and wet your pants immediately!!! We needs teh nukes to make the scary brown people do what we wants!!! I can't stress this enuff: be afraid!!!!

    April 12, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  12. Gary

    We don't need more weapons, but we definitely need to upgrade our current weapons to make them safer to store, to use, less vulnerable to terrorist, better targeting accuracy, cheaper to maintain, etc etc....I think that the Obama nuclear plan is naive and puts us at a disadvantage militarily. I have become very disappointed with President Obama over the last year. I like him personally, however he has many policy mistakes. We need a different president.

    April 12, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. Smith360

    For decades the Republican party and their lawmakers have played the fear card and continuously fanned the flames of fear across America to promote their candidates election over their Democratic counterparts.

    Democratic President Obama's new Start Treaty agreement is a marked step in deflating those fears and deflating the tremendous risk a growing and constantly upgraded Nuclear Weapons program poses to all humanity on Earth.

    The Republican party of NO appears to not have any traction on obstructing, blocking and preventing this new Start Treaty from being passed.

    I feel it will take successive Democratic led administrations to further roll-back the world's existing Nuclear Weapon's stockpile to further pave the way to a non-Nuclear Weapon's future.

    April 12, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Adrian

    Your the man Obama!!! Keep rocking in the free world.

    April 12, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Joel Holden

    I think the number 1 mission regarding nuclear weapons is to keep them out of the hands of terrorist groups and countries that support terrorism.

    I also think Obama should be more concerned about Iran's nuclear capability and more tolerant toward Israel. If the U.S. was facing total annihilation from one of the countries near us and watching the daily buildup of a nuclear arsenal, I doubt the U.S. would be consulting other countries as to a course of action. We would do what is necessary to protect our citizens. This condemnation of Israel who is facing that situation by the Obama administration is totally unacceptable. Is it possible to forget who our only ally is in the middle east? If the U.S. needs a country to condemn start with Iran and then continue with Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

    April 12, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. geecee

    Of course we are divided. What else is new? We haven't used a nuclear weapon since 1945, but let's keep making them – just in case. How many times over do we need to annihilate the planet? 5 times, 10 times? Once will probably do it. So even though we have enough nuclear weapons to kill off the planet completely – it may only be enough for 1 total annihilation – not 5 total annihilations. Amazing how many people that crazy Sarah Palin has managed to influence!!! She actually has the capacity to make people even more stupid than they already are by getting them to believe her crazy theories. She just loves to mock our President as "just being a community organizer." She seems to forget that "community organized" beat the crap out of her and McCain in 2008. You lost, Palin. Get over IT!!

    April 12, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. GREAT!

    Enough of WARS, we are in two wars, actually 3, one in our own country. THE TEA BALIBAN. DON'T ELIMINATE THEM UNTIL ONE LITTLE ONE IS DROPPED ON THIS MOVEMENT. I believe in the people's government but this group along with Palin and Bauchmann the two most uneducated nit-witts who think they know better how to run this country. The racism, hatred they spread is right there with TREASON! I don't agree with all of this administration thus far but I didn't agree with the last administration either. I have never seen such Hatred for 1 man who happens to be 1/2 once again 1/2 black and 1/2 WHITE, THAT'S THE TRUE PROBLEM HERE. Under the Bush Admin things weren't a bed of roses, my gosh put us into two WARS looking for WMD. The TEA BAGGERS are nothing more than a bunch of WHITE people who hate anyone who isn't. And I am not black just for the record

    April 12, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  18. Marry

    …it would be nice to eliminate them all. However, that is not what needs to be discussed now. It is 30% now and let’s do that first, please? But, even after this treaty, the US and Russia will still have more than enough nuclear weapons to kill the whole world many times over. So, do not worry, Ms Palin, GOP, Teebaggers, and all you other real Americans, there will be enough left for you to play with should you ever get into that position of power again. Thank God, that will be long after I have gone :-)!

    April 12, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  19. Bobby

    Would we all just love a world with no nuclear threat? And we are going to trust all of our neighbors to get rid of theirs. Plus, we know the rouge countries already have no chance to build one. Right. You keep nuclear weapons to protect yourself. If every country felt this way, great, go for it. I believe that we know better. We will always have access to them until the end of the world.

    April 12, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  20. TEXAN FOR THE TRUTH

    You're trying to call this idoacy a fifty-fifty split on Americans approval of what Obama is doing. Where are you taking these polls, Chicago and Los Angles? Get with the real America while we still have one left. Obama is surely the Anti-Christ and has just signed our military into total disaster.

    April 12, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    Did I mention BE AFRAID? The sky is falling!!! The Apocalypse is nigh!!! The world is going to end!!! Iran is going to invade us and make all white men wear a burka with dark socks and sandals!!! Whatever will we do if we can destroy the planet and render its environs uninhabitable only 5 times over instead of 10?!!! ONLY 5 TIMES!!?!?!?!?! I'll tell you what we'll do: PANIC!!!! OMG!!!! BE AFRAID!!!!

    In fact, Senate Republicans should be so afraid that the Senate gets nothing else done for the rest of the year....or at least until after November 9, 2010...except making us more afraid, insulting Russia and proving to the world that the US can get nothing productive done because a significant portion of our government is controlled by regressive demogogues who hold our progress hostage and won't let the government work unless they get back control!!!! That's a good thing, because I'm so scared I'd rather be 100% focused on how scared I am 24/7 than be distracted by piddling issues like the economy or jobs or health care or insurance or financial reform or campaign finance reform or education!!! All that stuff is trumped by my fear because the world is ending!!! Someone please PANIC WITH ME!!!

    April 12, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. MJ

    Not a smart move. The Countries that are the biggest threat to the United States have no intention of disarming. I am sure they are just laughing at the US for the complete stupidity of Obama's latest screw up. Let's hope he got Canada to sign up. That way, in case they miss hitting the US, they can go for our closest neighbor.

    April 12, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. Dano

    I think that only the most naive among us believe that ALL nuclear weapons should be destroyed. I don't believe that it's President Obama's goal to eliminate them all. He's just following a prudent path to reducing the many thousands of nukes held by the US & Russia to reduce the chance of terrorists getting their hands on one. Face it there's only so many times you can destroy an enemy (or the world) so if both contries eliminate 1/3 or 1/2 of their nuclear arsenals we'll still have plenty left to finish the job.

    April 12, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  24. forty

    Divided? I think this country should have an IQ test for the republicans. Honestly if you are going to open your trap, please do it with a closed fist! This world will never get rid of all nuclear weapons. Just trying to contain all of the fringe nukes could keep someone from using them against us!

    April 12, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  25. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The U.S. already knows what countries have nuclear weapons and by reducing a stock pile of nuclear weapon making materials keeps them out of the hands of terrorist. All nuclear weapons will not be eliminated, especially here in the U.S. because the world knows we are not terrorist and are a responsible nation of people, it's the stock pile that must be eliminated.

    April 12, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
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