Arms control is being challenged today by proliferation crises from North Korea to Pakistan. Yet, perhaps one of the central challenges comes from those in the United States who contend that rather than strengthening and expanding the multilateral arms control regime, America and its allies should place greater reliance on the use of military threats against potential proliferators.
To find out how the American public feels, the Program on International Policy Attitudes conducted a nationwide poll in collaboration with The Advanced Methods of Cooperative Security Program|both programs of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland.
The poll found that Americans continue to be highly concerned about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation. The median respondent estimated that at least 10 countries have secret programs for developing weapons of mass destruction. An overwhelming majority say that preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is a very (84 percent) or somewhat important (13 percent) foreign policy goal of the United States.
Americans also consistently showed strong support for arms control as a tool to address the problem. Ninety-one percent of those surveyed said that the United States should participate in the "treaty that bans all chemical weapons," and the same number favored participation in "the treaty that bans all biological weapons." Support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is also overwhelming, as is support for strengthening the inspection provisions of the biological weapons treaty. Support for such arms control treaties is robust among all demographic groups and all regions of the country. Though Democrats tend to be more supportive, large majorities of Republicans are supportive as well.
Steven Kull is director of the Center on Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.