Skepticism remains -- but has eased -- on North Korea's nuclear intentions (POLL)

An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that fewer are skeptical of North Korea.

June 17, 2018, 12:00 AM

Most Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll are skeptical Donald Trump's sit-down with North Korea's Kim Jong Un will lead Pyongyang to relinquish its nuclear weapons. But that doubt has lessened substantially from pre-summit levels.

Fifty-three percent said it's unlikely the summit will lead to North Korea's giving up its nuclear arms. Additionally, fewer than half, 42 percent, think the meeting in Singapore lessened the longterm chance of war.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

That said, Americans were far more negative before the meeting. In an ABC/Post poll in April, 67 percent called it unlikely that North Korea would denuclearize. The number who see this as likely has grown from 30 percent then to 41 percent now.

Moreover, while intensity of sentiment remains higher among skeptics, it's dropped sharply. In April, just 5 percent called it very likely the summit would lead to North Korea's relinquishing its nuclear weapons, while 42 percent call this very unlikely. Today the proportions are 10 percent vs. 25 percent -– a 17-point drop in strong doubt.

The change in the view that North Korea may in fact denuclearize came almost solely among Republicans – 68 percent now call this likely, up very sharply from 39 percent in April. Just 26 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents share this view, with no significant change. That said, many fewer Democrats now call it very unlikely – 29 percent. vs 53 percent in April.

The poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, also finds that the public, by 41-34 percent, said Trump "made reasonable compromises" at the summit rather than giving up too much. The difference, however, isn't statistically significant.

The ultimate outcome of the summit is unclear to most. Fifty-five percent said it's too early to tell whether or not it was a success for the United States, and essentially as many, 56 percent, said it's too early to tell if it was a success for North Korea.

For those willing to pick winners, though, Kim outscored Trump. Twenty-nine percent saw the summit as a success for North Korea, compared with just 5 percent who called it unsuccessful for the so-called Hermit Kingdom. It's a closer call on the outcome for the United States: Twenty-one percent called the summit successful, compared with 16 percent who said it was not.

On the question of avoiding war, the outlook was not particularly positive. As noted, 42 percent said the meeting made the longterm chance of war less likely, but just 16 percent say it made war "much" less likely. Fifty percent say either that it made no difference (39 percent) or that it actually increased the chance of war (11 percent).


Even among Trump loyalists, only half or fewer called the summit a success for the United States.

With "success," "not a success" or "too early to tell" offered as options, 49 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of conservatives called it a success, a view that falls sharply to the teens or single digits for independents, moderates, Democrats and liberals alike.

Those gaps extended to views of whether or not the summit is likely to lead North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons -– 68 percent of Republicans said so, vs. a third of independents and a quarter of Democrats -– or whether it will reduce the long-term chance of war; again two-thirds of Republicans say so, while just 39 and 26 percent of independents and Democrats, respectively, agree.

The differences aren't all political and ideological. A very large gender gap was apparent -- half of men say the summit lessened the chance of war, while just a third of women said the same. There's a similar gender gap on the likelihood of North Korea's denuclearizing. And men were twice as apt as women to say Trump made "reasonable compromises" rather than giving away too much –- 55 percent of men said so, vs. 27 percent of women.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone June 13-15, 2018, in English and in Spanish, among a random national sample of 495 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 5.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31-27-41 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 SSRS of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. See details on the survey's methodology here.

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