Skip to main content

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs partnered with Carnegie Corporation of New York to conduct a benchmark study gauging American public awareness and interest in learning more about nuclear issues. 

The prospect of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons seems more realistic now than it has for decades, raising questions about the relationship between nuclear weapons and security. 

Key Data 

  • A narrow slice of the US public say they are at least somewhat familiar with the effects of nuclear weapons (53%), US nuclear weapons policy (30%), the targets of US nuclear weapons (31%), and the cost of these weapons (20%).
  • By a five to one ratio, more Americans say that the US nuclear weapons arsenal makes the country safer (47%) than less safe (9%). But 24 percent say nuclear weapons don’t make a difference and 19 percent state they don’t know enough to make an assessment.
  • A majority say they do not know enough to assess the benefit or harm of nuclear weapons to them personally (58%).
  • Two-thirds believe that US nuclear weapons have been effective at preventing conflict between the United States and other countries (63%).
  • Six in 10 Americans say they are at least somewhat interested in learning more about US nuclear weapon policy, especially basic information about how nuclear weapons work and their effects.  
  • Six in 10 Americans also are uncomfortable with the president having the sole authority to authorize the use of nuclear weapons by the United States.

“It’s clear that the public needs more information about nuclear issues in order to understand the relationship between nuclear threats and their own security,” said Sharon K. Weiner, Senior Resident Fellow of the Corporation’s International Peace and Security program. 

For more findings, download the full report

About the Chicago Council on Global Affairs   

A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, the Council was founded in 1922 and is dedicated to increasing knowledge and engagement in global affairs. Our in-depth analysis and expert-led research influence policy conversations and inform the insights we share with our growing community. Through accessible content and open dialogue of diverse, fact-based perspectives, we empower more people to help shape our global future. Learn more at   

About Carnegie Corporation of New York  

Carnegie Corporation of New York was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that he considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.  

Media Contact

Libby Berry

Communications Officer
headshot of Libby Berry