Friday, June 29, 2007

World Worries About Nuclear Weapons

While a recent 47-nation survey conducted by the Pew Research Center is garnering a lot of attention for highlighting growing environmental concerns and international opposition to maintaining U.S. forces in Iraq, less attention is being focused on the results demonstrating global concern over nuclear nonproliferation. The poll asked respondents to rank five choices, including the spread of nuclear weapons, as being the greatest (or second greatest) danger in the world today. In a separate series of questions they also asked respondents if they were concerned over Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Here is what they found. (Click on the images for a full view.)

Spread of Nuclear Weapons

While losing ground to surging environmental concerns, fear over the spread of nuclear weapons remains high around the world. People in Japan are most concerned over the spread of nuclear weapons, while nuclear proliferation is a growing concern in the Middle East, with Israel, Lebanon, and Turkey all in the top four. In nearly every Middle Eastern country surveyed, the spread of nuclear weapons or religious and ethnic hatred are either the first or second most frequently mentioned threat facing the world. The proportion who name nuclear proliferation as a top global danger has increased in Jordan (by 21 percentage points), Turkey (11 points), and Lebanon (8 points) in the past five years.

Countries most worried about nuclear proliferation are more likely to turn to the United States and, to a lesser degree, the United Nations, to deal with the issue. The Japanese worry the most about the spread of nuclear weapons, and nearly half of the Japanese who view this as a major threat say the U.S. should take responsibility for dealing with the problem, while significantly less say the U.N. This is characteristic of responses by concerned publics in many other nations, though the Lebanese and Jordanians who worry about nuclear proliferation say the U.N., and not the U.S., should take responsibility for dealing with the problem.

Iran Acquiring Nuclear Weapons

There also is broad opposition to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Citizens all around the world voice substantial concern about the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. Majorities in 32 of the 37 countries that were asked about Iran’s nuclear program oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Opposition is very strong in North America, Latin America, and Europe, as well as in Japan, South Korea, and Israel, and there is also considerable resistance to Iran’s weapons program in some predominantly Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East. In fact, Palestinians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis are the only publics that favor Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Nearly six-in-ten in the Palestinian territories and Pakistan and more than half in Bangladesh say they would favor Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Publics across the world, including those in Iran’s backyard, are concerned that a nuclear-armed Iran would represent a threat to their countries. While Israelis are among the most worried, majorities or pluralities in all North American, Latin American, and European countries also see Iran’s nuclear weapons program as a potential threat. Among the publics of predominantly Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East, the Kuwaitis, the Lebanese, and the Turks are the most concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. Only in Pakistan and the Palestinian territories do majorities say Iran’s nuclear weapons would not be much of threat.

No comments: