NEW SURVEY: In Advance of U.S.-North Korea Summit, Americans Show Strong Preference for Diplomacy over Military Engagement

Americans Aren’t Certain Who Should Receive Nobel Peace Prize; South Koreans Believe President Moon Deserves Credit

 Arlington, VA, June 11, 2018—The Charles Koch Institute and Real Clear Politics released a first-of-its-kind survey of American and South Korean views about the June 12 summit between United States President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. The goal of the survey is to better understand whether South Koreans and Americans prefer a diplomatic solution to military engagement and if they believe ongoing diplomatic efforts will yield substantial benefits for their respective countries.

One striking aspect of the survey is the close similarity of attitudes in South Korea and the United States on some questions.

“South Koreans and Americans both believe the planned summit should go forward—and Americans think improved relations have generated benefits,” said David DesRosiers, publisher of Real Clear Politics. “While Americans remain deeply skeptical about the motivations of Kim Jong-Un and skeptical whether these talks will produce lasting results, the survey makes it clear that voters want to give diplomatic efforts a chance.”

When asked about the alternatives the United States and South Korea could pursue if North Korea declines to eliminate its nuclear program after the June 12 summit, military action was the least preferred response given by both Americans and South Koreans.

“The Charles Koch Institute has conducted several surveys over the past two years about Americans’ views on foreign policy and the United States’ diplomatic and military role in the world,” said Will Ruger, vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute. “These surveys reveal that Americans are not generally eager for military action abroad.  This latest poll found that only one-fifth of Americans think using force is currently the best approach towards North Korea, and less than a third think that is the best answer even if North Korea does not denuclearize.  And a majority prefers to end our military presence on the peninsula if a deal is struck to officially end the war or if North Korea disarms. President Trump should consider those preferences as he meets with Kim in Singapore.”

DETAILED RESULTS

Americans & South Koreans Prefer Diplomacy over Military Engagement & Don’t Want Military Action Even if the June 12 Talks Don’t Produce Demonstrable Action    

Asked Whether They Thought President Trump Should Meet with Kim Jong-Un:

  • Four out of five respondents in the U.S. and South Korea answered affirmatively. Seventy percent of Americans said the two should meet, 18 percent said they should not, and 12 percent were unsure.
  • In South Korea, these numbers were even higher, with 81 percent of Koreans saying the two leaders should meet, 9 percent said they should not, and 10 percent expressing uncertainty.

Asked about the Best Approaches for Their Country to Take with North Korea:

  • A majority of Americans—69 percent—said to continue diplomatic relations when offered a menu of options (they could choose more than one).
  • On economic pressure, 44 percent of Americans want to continue sanctions against North Korea and businesses that do business with North Korea, while 41 percent of Americans favor maintaining both conventional military and nuclear dominance in South Korea for the purpose of deterring North Korean military action.
  • Thirty-seven percent of Americans favor pursuing a strategy separating economic from political engagement in order to open North Korea up to the world, 11 percent said use bombing and missile strikes to destroy nuclear facilities in North Korea, and 8 percent favor invading North Korea with ground forces to destroy or capture nuclear facilities in North Korea and create regime change. Eight percent said none of the above.
  • Most South Koreans Also Prefer to Continue Diplomatic Relations. Fifty-five percent of South Koreans said to continue diplomatic relations, 45 percent said pursue a strategy separating economic from political engagement in order to open North Korea up to the world, 18 percent said maintain conventional military and nuclear dominance in South Korea for the purpose of deterring any military action by North Korea, 17 percent said continue financial sanctions against North Korea and businesses that do business with North Korea, 8 percent said invade North Korea with ground forces to destroy or capture nuclear facilities in North Korea and achieve regime change, and 7 percent said use bombing and missile strikes to destroy nuclear facilities in North Korea. Six percent said none of the above.

Asked about Options if North Korea Does Not Eliminate its Nuclear Program:

  • Most Americans Prefer Continued Diplomatic Engagement. Sixty-two percent of Americans said to continue diplomatic discussions, 56 percent said continue financial sanctions, 48 percent said maintain conventional military and nuclear dominance in South Korea for the purpose of deterring any military action by North Korea, 36 percent said pursue a strategy separating economic from political engagement in order to open North Korea up to the world, 17 percent said use bombing and missile strikes to destroy nuclear facilities in North Korea, and 13 percent said invade North Korea with ground forces to destroy or capture nuclear facilities in North Korea and achieve regime change. Eight percent said none of the above.
  • Most South Koreans Also Prefer Continued Diplomatic Engagement. Fifty-five percent of South Koreans said to continue diplomatic discussions, 34 percent said continue financial sanctions against North Korea and businesses that do business with North Korea, 33 percent said pursue a strategy separating economic from political engagement in order to open North Korea up to the world, 27 percent said maintain conventional military and nuclear dominance in South Korea for the purpose of deterring any military action by North Korea, 11 percent said use bombing and missile strikes to destroy nuclear facilities in North Korea, and 10 percent said invade North Korea with ground forces to destroy or capture nuclear facilities in North Korea and achieve regime change. Six percent said none of the above.

Americans Want U.S. Troops to Stay for Now, but Want Them Home if Diplomacy Works; South Koreans Think Troops Should Stay

Asked if the U.S. Should Increase, Decrease, or Maintain the Number of Troops Stationed in South Korea:

  • Most Americans Think Troop Levels Should Be Kept the Same. Twelve percent of Americans said the United States should increase its military presence, 16 percent said it should decrease its presence, 61 percent said the United States should keep troop levels the same, and 12 percent were unsure.
  • Most South Koreans Agree. Ten percent of South Koreans said the United States should increase its military presence, 26 percent said it should decrease its presence, 56 percent said the United States should keep troop levels the same, and 8 percent were unsure.

Asked What It Would Take to Bring U.S. Troops Home from South Korea:

  • A Majority of Americans Want U.S. Troops to Come Home to the United States if Certain Objectives Are Achieved. Twenty-one percent of Americans said U.S. troops should be kept in South Korea indefinitely, 12 percent said U.S. troops should be brought back to the United States regardless of the political and military situation in Asia, 21 percent said U.S. troops should be withdrawn if there is a peaceful end to the armistice between North and South Korea but no denuclearization, 37 percent said the troops should stay in place until nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula is achieved.
  • A Near Majority of South Koreans Think the Troops Should Remain Indefinitely. Forty-five percent of South Koreans said U.S. troops should be kept in South Korea indefinitely, 8 percent said U.S. troops should return to the United States regardless of the political and military situation in Asia, 28 percent said U.S. troops should return to the United States if there is a peaceful end to the armistice between North and South Korea but no denuclearization, 12 percent said U.S. troops should return to the United States only in the event of successful nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula.

Americans and South Koreans Are Skeptical That Relations with North Korea Are Improving, but Many Individuals Still Aren’t Certain How to Feel

Asked if They Are Confident or Skeptical about Improving Relations between North Korea and Their Own Country:

  • Most Americans (56 Percent) Said They Are Skeptical. Nine percent of Americans said they are very confident, 16 percent said they are confident, 39 percent said they are skeptical, and 17 percent said they are very skeptical. Five percent said they were not sure and 14 percent said they were neither confident nor skeptical.
  • A Plurality of South Koreans (37 Percent) Said They Are Skeptical. Four percent of South Koreans said they are very confident, 23 percent said they are confident, 27 percent said they are skeptical, and 10 percent said they are very skeptical. Two percent said they were not sure and 35 percent said they were neither confident nor skeptical.

Asked Whether They Believe North Korea Will Denuclearize within the Next Five Years:

  • A Plurality of Americans (42 Percent) Said They Will Not. Thirty-one percent of Americans said they believe denuclearization would be successful and 42 percent said it would not be successful. Twenty-seven percent said they were not sure.
  • More South Koreans Than Americans Are Optimistic. Forty-six percent of South Koreans predicted that denuclearization would be successful and 32 percent said it would not be successful. Twenty-two percent said they were not sure.

South Koreans Think North Korea Is Using the Nuclear Threat as a Bargaining Chip; Americans Give More Varied Reasons for North Korea’s Actions

Asked Why North Korea Has Built Nuclear Capabilities:

  • Americans’ Most Common Response Was North Korea Wants to Use Weapons as a “Permanent Bargaining Chip.” Twenty-six percent of Americans said to deter other military powers from pursuing regime change in North Korea, 25 percent said to build weapons to be used offensively against their adversaries, 8 percent said to forcibly reunify the Korean Peninsula under nuclear threat, and 33 percent said to use weapons as a permanent bargaining chip over the international community into relieving sanctions against North Korea.
  • Almost 70 Percent of South Koreans Said the Purpose Was to Use Weapons as a “Permanent Bargaining Chip.” Fourteen percent of South Koreans said to build weapons to be used offensively against their adversaries, 8 percent said to forcibly reunify the Korean Peninsula under nuclear threat, 7 percent said to deter other military powers from pursuing regime change in North Korea, and 69 percent said to use weapons as a permanent bargaining chip over the international community into relieving sanctions against North Korea.

Nobel Peace Prize? Americans & South Koreans Aren’t So Sure

Asked Who Should Receive a Nobel Peace Prize if the Denuclearization Agreement Is Successful:

  • A Plurality of Americans Chose Not to Award the Honor at All. Offered with three options, 33 percent of Americans cited Donald Trump, 32 percent said South Korean President Moon Jae-In, with only 3 percent picking Kim Jong-Un. The highest number—38 percent—answered, “None of the above.”
  • A Majority of South Koreans Chose South Korean President Moon Jae-In. Thirty-one percent of South Koreans said Donald Trump, while 51 percent South Korean President Moon Jae-In; 12 percent said Kim Jong-U and 28 percent said none of them.

Americans Believe North Korea & Russia Are the World’s Biggest Threats

Asked Which Nation Poses the Greatest Threat to Their Own Country’s Safety:

  • Among American respondents, the top threat was a tie between North Korea (24 percent) and Russia (24 percent). China was third, at 12 percent, followed by Iran (8 percent).

Asked Which Nation Poses the Greatest Threat to Global Stability:

  • The most frequent answer cited by American respondents was Russia (22 percent) followed by North Korea (18 percent) and then China (13 percent).

Americans Are More Likely to Say Improved Relations Have Benefited Businesses in Their Communities

Asked Whether They Thought the Current Dialogue Involving North Korea—on Leaders in Seoul and Washington—Made Things Better or Worse for Business in Their Communities:

  • Nearly 60 Percent of Americans Said Things Were Better. Eighteen percent of Americans said it made things much better, 41 percent said better, while only 5 percent said “worse” or “much worse.” Eleven percent were unsure and 25 percent said conditions were neither better nor worse.
  • Almost Half of South Koreans Said the Reduction in Hostilities Had Made No Impact on Their Businesses. Twelve percent of South Koreans said it made things much better, 27 percent said better, 3 percent said worse, and 2 percent said much worse. Eight percent were unsure and 48 percent said conditions were unchanged.

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT

  • Trice Jacobson trice.jacobson@cki.org 202-258-4035
  • Stacia Komosinski stacia.komosinski@cki.org 571-243-6987
  • David Craig dcraig@realcleardefense.com 910-465-1617

ABOUT THE CHARLES KOCH INSTITUTE
For more than five decades, Charles Koch’s philanthropy has inspired bold new ideas to improve American lives. Inspired by a recognition that free people are capable of extraordinary things, the Charles Koch Institute supports education and dialogue to advance these principles and challenge convention. We work to remove barriers to opportunity for all Americans, helping individuals transform their lives. To learn more visit charleskochinstitute.org.

ABOUT REAL CLEAR POLITICS
RealClear Media Group (RCMG), led by its flagship brand RealClearPolitics, encompasses 14 specialty areas of coverage, with original reporting from our staff of seasoned reporters, live events, the well-known RCP Poll Average, and original video. With a wide array of news and analysis available online, insiders rely on RealClear’s sites as a go-to source for reporting, commentary, and analysis on all sides of the most pressing issues impacting news and politics.

SURVEY METHODOLOGY
Survey Sampling International fielded the nationwide survey from June 4 to June 6, 2018 in the United States and South Korea. The survey had ,1000 total respondents in the United States and 700 in South Korea. U.S. respondents were reached using both random phone dials and web-based opt-in panels. South Korea respondents were reached solely through web-based opt-in panels. U.S results are weighted using broad geographic region, race and ethnicity, age, and gender. South Korea results are weighted using broad geographic region, age and gender. The survey has an estimated +/- 3.1 percentage points margin of error for U.S. respondents and +/- 3.7 percentage points margin of error for South Korean respondents.

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