U.S. Voters Harden Views on North Korea After Kim Threatens to Cancel Summit

Republicans drive increase among those who consider North Korea an enemy
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the Inter-Korean Summit at the Peace House on April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. (Photo by Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)
May 23, 2018 at 12:01 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • The share of voters who consider North Korea an enemy increased to 51%, from 45%, in a one-week period -- driven in part by a 12 point gain among Republicans.

  • A 48% plurality of voters said Trump should meet with Kim regardless of whether North Korea makes concessions on its nuclear weapons program beforehand.

More Americans have negative views of North Korea after Pyongyang threatened to pull out of a planned June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll.

The nationwide survey of registered voters, conducted May 17-19, found a 6 percentage point increase from a May 10-14 poll in respondents who consider North Korea an enemy, pushing that figure up to 51 percent. The jump was driven by a 12 point swing in the GOP camp -- from 41 percent to 53 percent -- and a 3 point increase among Democrats, to 53 percent. A 49 percent plurality of independents now view North Korea as an enemy, up 6 points from the previous survey.

The surveys each have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Lisa Collins, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a Tuesday interview that in order for Americans to stop viewing North Korea as an enemy, the Asian country will have to give up its nuclear weapons program and join the international community – a process she says will take “years of reform.”

Speaking at the White House alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in Tuesday, Trump said he thinks North Korea’s leader is ”serious” about denuclearization, but added that next month’s summit with Kim in Singapore “may not work out.”

“If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later,” Trump said.

A 48 percent plurality of voters said they are confident that Trump can handle the threats posed by North Korea, down from 51 percent in the previous week’s poll. Voters who said they don’t have confidence in the president held at 45 percent.

“The key here is whether what they do is perceived as reducing the threat to the United States in a real way,” Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), a member of U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said in an interview Tuesday.

“I think he has an opening to do that,” Talent said of Trump’s negotiations.

Forty-eight percent of voters said Trump should meet with Kim regardless of whether North Korea makes concessions on its nuclear weapons program before the summit -- little changed from 47 percent in the previous poll. In both surveys, 32 percent said Trump should meet with Kim only if North Korea gives some ground on its program in advance.

A headshot photograph of Eli Yokley
Eli Yokley
U.S. Politics Analyst

Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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