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2021 Report on American Attitudes Toward the Korean Peninsula

KEI’s 2021 Report on American Attitudes Toward the Korean Peninsula summarizes results from a survey commissioned by KEI and conducted by YouGov on August 30th to September 7th, 2021. The report is the second iteration of KEI’s annual survey asking Americans their views on relations with South Korea, the challenges presented by North Korea, and how the U.S. should manage its relationship with the peninsula. Most of the questions in this survey were carried over from last year’s survey, with a few additional questions and changes relevant to 2021.

The surveyed group of 1,000 respondents was weighted to reflect a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults (18 years and older). An additional oversample of 140 Americans who specifically follow international news is also included, to supplement those in the general population sample. The total number who follow international news across both samples is 509. The margin of error of the survey is +/- 3.25.

Key insights from the survey include:

  • Nearly two thirds of Americans see the military alliance with South Korea as beneficial to the US.
    • The number of Americans who want to maintain all US alliances declined significantly from 22% in 2020 to 18% in 2021, while the number of those who want to maintain all alliances, but with reforms, increased (from 22% in 2020 to 27% in 2021).
    • For a plurality of Americans (35%), the withdrawal from Afghanistan had no impact on their views about maintaining other US security commitments abroad. 2 in 10 said it made them more likely to support such commitments.
    • 50% of Americans would like to see the US maintain the current troop presence in South Korea. This rate is especially high among those who follow international and Asia-Pacific news (60%).
  • 9 in 10 Americans believe it is very important/important for North Korea to give up its military nuclear capabilities.
    • While nearly half of Americans think their own country should maintain its nuclear capabilities, only 8% think that North Korea should maintain its military nuclear capabilities. Almost half think no countries should have military nuclear capabilities.
    • 41% of Americans would like the US to maintain its troop presence in South Korea, if the United States were to reach an agreement with North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
    • This year, as last, about half of Americans approve of the US sending humanitarian assistance to North Korea.
    • The proportion of Americans who approve of the US sending humanitarian assistance to North Korean citizens declined from 53% last year to 48% this year. More Democrats approve of sending humanitarian assistance to North Korea compared to Republicans (60% vs. 38%).
    • In 2021, more Americans who follow international news approve of the US sending Covid-19 assistance to North Korean citizens than they did in 2020 (63% in 2021 vs. 55% in 2020).

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