.News Update 12/26/08

World Public Opinion Poll Suggests Promising Future for Eliminating Nuclear Weapons

December 26, 2008

A poll conducted recently by www.WorldPublicOpinion.org shows a wide majority of nations supporting an international agreement for eliminating all nuclear weapons. People in 21 nations worldwide were asked to consider an agreement whereby all countries, including their own, were asked to eliminate all existing nuclear weapons and to agree to not produce any more. People living in 20 of the 21 countries responded with a strong majority in favor of such an agreement, ranging from 62 percent to 93 percent in favor. Pakistan replied with 46 percent in favor and 41 percent opposed, a less strong majority. On average, 76 percent of peoples from all countries replied in favor.

This poll comes at an opportune time. The growing movement to eliminate nuclear weapons gained attention in 2007 as a result of an editorial entitled, "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons," written by four former U.S. senior officials, George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn. The editorial endorsed a similar goal to that suggested in the poll.

At the same time, the U.S. is looking forward to the opportunity to reevaluate its own nuclear weapons policy as President-elect Barack Obama comes into office. During his campaign Obama promised to strengthen non-proliferation programs, reach new disarmament deals with Russia, strengthen sanctions against nations with rogue nuclear programs and seek a global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material. Obama said, "It's time to send a clear message to the world - America seeks a world with no nuclear weapons."

It appears that now is the time for the world to make a change. Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, said, "Publics around the world show a remarkably high level of consensus in favor of pursuing a step-by-step plan for reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons." Support for such a plan is consistent on a global basis, which spans borders and demographic differences. The results were very consistent among genders, ages and levels of education.

Of the nations polled, the five with the largest nuclear arsenals showed majorities in favor between 69 percent and 86 percent. Much of the initiative for a nuclear-weapons-free world would have to come from such nations, including the U.S. At present, the U.S. faces future questions of which direction it will take on nuclear weapons.

Clark Murdock, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, "The challenges (of nuclear terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and our entire 21st century nuclear strategy) have been maturing for some time, and the Obama administration is going to have to deal with them."

President-elect Obama and his chosen Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are already facing a decision about the continuation of nuclear weapons with the question of whether to start a process of producing new warheads at the Department of Energy nuclear weapons factories. Either the factories would continue to focus on maintaining existing warheads or would become the foundation for a new production enterprise of nuclear weapons, the first to be produced since the Cold War. Robert Gates said that the production of a new warhead is about keeping up with other nations who are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. Gates said, "[The warhead] is about the future credibility of our nuclear deterrent."

The question remains whether the new administration will seize this opportunity to take a leap forward into a nuclear-weapons-free world. Senator Byron Dorgan, head of the Senate appropriations subcommittee controlling nuclear weapons spending, said, "It's our responsibility to be a leader in trying to, first, stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and second, in reducing the number of nuclear weapons on the planet."


If you would like to add your name to the effort to eliminate nuclear weapons, please sign the on-line petition for a nuclear weapons free world in which "We call upon the next President of the United States to make a world free of nuclear weapons an urgent priority and to assure U.S. leadership to realize this goal," at www.nuclearweaponsfree and sign the "Be Free" petition.

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