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FEBRUARY 19, 2019

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are gearing up for their second summit at the end of this month, but the American public remains unconvinced that negotiations will yield denuclearization. According to new public opinion data from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, three-quarters of Americans don’t believe North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons program, but in the event that it does, Americans and South Koreans would want to keep their military alliance.

The report, “American and South Korean Publics Doubtful about Success of Talks with North Korea” also shows a consistent majority of Americans do not believe that any country should be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Three-quarters of Americans (73 percent) lack confidence that negotiations between the United States and North Korea will lead to North Korea’s denuclearization.
  • South Koreans feel similarly—though by slimmer majorities—having little or no confidence that either President Moon’s (52 percent) or President Trump’s (53 percent) negotiating abilities will result in the denuclearization of North Korea.
  • In the event that North Korea does denuclearize, Americans would prefer to maintain the alliance and to keep U.S. troops stationed in South Korea (51 percent).
  • While half of South Koreans (54 percent) support a domestic nuclear weapons program, Americans are unlikely to support a nuclear South Korea as 64 percent think no country should be allowed to possess nuclear weapons. 

For more findings, graphics, and methodology, download the full report.


The data for South Korea is the result of a survey conducted in South Korea from December 26 – 27, 2018 by Hankook Research. The sample size was 1,000 aged 19 and older and it employed RDD for mobile and landline phones. The margin of error is ±3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

The data for the United States contained in this report are based on interviews conducted from January 11 - January 13, 2019, by Ipsos Public Affairs using their large-scale, nationwide online probability panel, the KnowledgePanel OmniWeb. A total of 1,019 interviews were completed among a weighted national sample of adults 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error on weighted data is ±3 percentage points for the full sample.

Chicago Council Public Opinion research is a project of the Lester Crown Center on U.S. Foreign Policy, and is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.