Poll: Almost Half of Americans Support Military Action Against North Korea If Needed

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un
Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg/Getty/AFP

A poll from YouGov and The Economist finds Americans are concerned about the possibility of full-scale war with North Korea, but about half of respondents support military action if necessary.

Seventy-nine percent of poll respondents said they were very or somewhat concerned about the possibility of war. Forty-four percent said eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons was more important than avoiding war, while 42 percent said the reverse.

Twenty-one percent strongly supported military action to end North Korea’s nuclear program, while 28 percent somewhat supported it, for a total of 49 percent. Only 33 percent were somewhat or strongly opposed to war if it became necessary, leaving a rather large 19 percent who reported having no opinion. Support was much stronger among Republicans (73 percent strongly or somewhat supportive) than Democrats (35 percent) or independents (44 percent).

Oddly enough, support for military action went up when the pollsters suggested it could lead to war with China. Total support in that scenario became 63 percent versus 27 percent opposed. Presumably, some number of the respondents wanted to make it clear they were not intimidated by China.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents thought President Trump was just “talking tough” on North Korea, while 49 percent said he “actually means to attack.” Republicans were considerably more likely to take him seriously about the threat of military action (66 percent to 17 percent) than Democrats (41 percent to 33 percent).

Poll respondents were not terribly supportive of President Trump’s leadership style. Overall, they said by a margin of 79 percent to 21 percent that Trump “reacts and speaks without thinking very much,” as opposed to carefully considering his words. Remarkably, Republican respondents held that opinion by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.

A majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents said North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s insult of Trump as a “mentally deranged dotard” was inappropriate. Republicans condemned the remark by a margin of 85 percent to 8 percent, while Democrats did so by 72 percent to 14 percent, and independents by 67 percent to 10 percent.

Conversely, respondents were divided on whether it was appropriate for Trump to refer to Kim as “a Rocket Man on a suicide mission for himself and his regime” during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. Forty-three percent overall thought it was an appropriate comment, while 44 percent said it was not. The partisan split on this question was much more dramatic; Democrats condemned the “Rocket Man” remark by a 76 percent to 13 percent margin and independents by 43 percent to 35 percent, while Republicans said it was appropriate 68 percent to 21 percent.

Fox News released a poll Thursday that asked about North Korea; its results were somewhat less favorable to the president. Seventy percent of respondents said the way Trump talks about North Korea is “not helpful.” Sixty-one percent said diplomacy and sanctions were the best way to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, versus 27 percent who favored threats of military action.

On the other hand, 46 percent of respondents to the Fox poll said Trump has been “about right” in his tough talk on North Korea, and another 19 percent said he has not been tough enough. Only 22 percent said his approach has been too tough.

On the other other hand, the Fox poll found overall disapproval for Trump’s handling of North Korea 55 percent disapproval versus 39 percent approval. The partisan gulf on this question was enormous, with Democrats disapproving by 88 percent to 9 percent, Republicans approving by 75 percent to 20 percent, and independents split at 48 percent disapproval/40 percent approval.

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