Majority distrusts Trump with nuclear authority (POLL)

PHOTO: President Donald Trump walks along the colonnade at the White House, Jan. 19, 2018.PlayCarlos Barria/Reuters
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Six in 10 Americans don’t trust Donald Trump to handle his nuclear authority responsibly, and just more than half in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll are concerned he might launch a nuclear attack without justification.

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Those results follow the president’s heated rhetoric toward Kim Jong Un, which have included threats of “fire and fury” and boasts by Trump that he has a “much bigger” nuclear button than the North Korean leader’s.

PHOTO: North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a New Years Day speech in this photo released by North Koreas Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, Jan. 1, 2018. KCNA VIA Reuters, FILE
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a New Year's Day speech in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, Jan. 1, 2018.

They also accompany a range of other U.S. public doubts about Trump in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, including an even split in opinion on whether or not he’s mentally stable.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

Just 38 percent in the national survey trust Trump to act responsibly in handling his authority to order a nuclear attack on another country, a figure much like his overall job approval rating, 36 percent -– the lowest on record after a president’s first year in office in data back 72 years.

Sixty percent overall don’t trust Trump with this authority, peaking at 90 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of liberals, 75 percent of nonwhites, 73 percent of those with post-graduate degrees, 71 percent of college-educated white women and 70 percent of young adults. Distrust also is 16 points higher among women than men, 68 vs. 52 percent, and in urban areas vs. rural ones, 67 vs. 51 percent, reflecting partisan divisions.

Trust of the president on this issue, on the other hand, reaches 77 percent among Republicans, two-thirds of evangelical whites Protestants and 64 percent of white men who lack college degrees, a key voting group in 2016. Seventy-five percent of strong conservatives trust Trump -– declining sharply to 58 percent of “somewhat” conservatives.

Distrust fuels anxiety of a baseless attack. Among those who don’t trust Trump with the nuclear button, 88 percent are concerned the president might spark a nuclear attack without justification, and 55 percent are “very” concerned about it. Those translate to 52 and 33 percent of all adults, respectively.

Again, worry is highly partisan, reaching 84 and 79 percent of Democrats and liberals, and 55 and 50 percent of moderates and independents, vs. just 17 and 18 percent of Republicans and strong conservatives.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 15-18, 2018, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31-23-40 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts. See details on the survey’s methodology here.