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Poll: Many Americans Worry About Nuclear Terrorism

By Keating Holland/CNN

WASHINGTON (June 16) -- Although the public thinks the chances of the United States getting involved in a nuclear war with another country are remote, half of all Americans believe that terrorists will explode a nuclear bomb in the U.S. within the next 10 years, according to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll.

Seventy-one percent predict other countries will use nuclear weapons against each other by the year 2008. Just more than a third say the U.S. will get into a nuclear war in the next decade, a relatively low figure in comparison to fears of terrorism, but much higher than the number who felt that way in 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the poll also found.

Attitudes toward nuclear weapons have completely reversed themselves since the start of the Cold War. In 1949, 59 percent of people surveyed said the development of the atomic bomb was a good thing. Today, 61 percent feel nuclear weapons are a bad thing.

The survey polled 1,003 adults June 5-7 and has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points.

U.S. Will Get Into Nuclear War In Next 10 Years
Likely
Unlikely
37%
61%
Terrorists Will Use Nuclear Weapon in U.S. in Next 10 Years
Likely
Unlikely
50%
47%
Other Countries Will Use Nuclear Weapons Against Each Other in Next 10 Years
Likely
Unlikely
71%
27%
U.S. Will Get Into Nuclear War In Next 10 Years

Likely
Unlikely

Now

37%
61%

1990

21%
75%

Development of Nuclear Weapons

Likely
Unlikely

Now

36%
61%

1949

59%
29%

Only 41 percent of the American public thinks that nuclear proliferation threatens the national security of the U.S., but two-thirds see the spread of nuclear weapons to new countries as a threat to world peace.

Yet the public's perception of either threat depends on which country has the bomb. Americans say China's nuclear capability is a threat to the national security of the U.S., but they don't feel threatened by India or Pakistan's nuclear weapons, though Pakistan is seen as a greater threat to the U.S. than India.

Surprisingly, Americans do not believe that Russia's nuclear capacity poses a serious threat to the U.S. But they would feel threatened if Iran or Iraq developed their own nuclear weapons, although they see no threat in an Israeli or Brazilian bomb.

What about the threat that each of those countries poses to world peace? Once again, China is seen as a bigger threat than Russia. Iraq and Iran would pose a threat to world peace, but not Israel. And while only 47 percent seen Indian nuclear weapons as a threat to world peace, two-thirds feel that way about Pakistan's "Islamic bomb."

In fact, the Pakistani nuclear weapons program is seen as a bigger threat to world peace than any other country that is currently in the "nuclear club."

Does Nuclear Proliferation Threaten U.S. Security?
Yes
No
41%
58%
Does Nuclear Proliferation Threaten World Peace?
Yes
No
66%
32%
Do These Countries' Nuclear Weapons Threaten the U.S.?

China
Russia
Pakistan
India
Britain

Yes

57%
46%
43%
26%
7%

No

41%
53%
52%
69%
90%

Would These Countries' Nuclear Weapons Threaten the U.S.?

Iraq
Iran
Israel
Brazil

Yes

84%
80%
24%
11%

No

14%
19%
74%
84%

Do These Countries' Nuclear Weapons Threaten World Peace?

Pakistan
China
Russia
India
Britain

Yes

66%
61%
48%
47%
13%

No

30%
34%
48%
47%
83%

Would These Countries' Nuclear Weapons Threaten World Peace?

Iraq
Iran
Israel
Brazil

Yes

89%
83%
43%
17%

No

9%
12%
53%
73%

In Other News

Tuesday, June 16, 1998

Poll: Many Americans Worry About Nuclear Terrorism
Brill Admits Mistake In Not Disclosing Clinton Donations
Did Ken Starr Break The Law By Speaking To The Press?
President Pushes For More Police Officers In Schools


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