Attitudes To Nuclear Weapons

There has been a substantial drop since the 1950s in overall support for using nuclear weapons against a country at war with the UK, according to new research from MORI.

There has been a substantial drop since the 1950s in overall support for using nuclear weapons against a country at war with the UK, according to new research from MORI.

In 1955, three-quarters of the British public -- 76% -- said they would approve using a nuclear bomb against an enemy country that itself attacks the UK with nuclear weapons. This latest survey, for Greenpeace, shows that approval has now fallen to 55% -- with one in three (32%) saying they would disapprove of such an action.

Only one in 10 (11%) would approve of a 'pre-emptive' nuclear strike against an enemy country which itself has nuclear arms but has not previously used them, compared to 77% who would disapprove. Approval for a nuclear strike against an enemy country without a nuclear capability would be given by just one in 20 (five per cent) -- with 87% disapproving of such a policy.

Technical details

MORI interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,973 British adults aged 15+, face-to-face, in-home between 9th and 13th September 2005. The questions referred to in this summary were split-sampled, with 1,016 asked one 'version' of the survey and 957 a second version. Quotas were set for age, gender, GOR and social class, and date are weighted to age, gender, social class, tenure, work status and Government Office Region (GOR).

Topline Results

  • Results are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,973 British adults aged 15+ using MORI's face-to-face omnibus
  • All questions with the exception of Q2 were split sampled, with approximately one half of respondents being asked one 'version' of the survey and the other half a second version. 1,016 respondents were interviewed for Version 1 of the questionnaire and 957 for Version 2 - giving an overall sample size of 1,973.
  • Data are weighted to age, gender, social class, tenure, work status and Government Office Region (GOR)
  • Fieldwork was conducted between 8th and 13th September 2005. Quotas were set for age, gender, GOR and social class
  • An asterisk (*) denotes a finding of less than 0.5% but greater than zero

VERSION 1

The UK's 'Trident' nuclear weapons are now ageing and will become unusable in about 20 years' time. This means that, for the UK to maintain effective nuclear weaponry, the government needs to decide soon on whether to develop a replacement.

Q1 On balance, do you think the UK should replace its nuclear weapons, or not? Base: all respondents Version 1 (1,016)

 %
Yes, should44
No, should not46
Don't know10

VERSION 2

The UK's 'Trident' nuclear weapons are now ageing and will become unusable in about 20 years' time. This means that, for the UK to maintain effective nuclear weaponry, the government needs to decide soon on whether to develop a replacement.

The total cost of replacing 'Trident' missiles, submarines and base facilities is likely to be around 16325 billion. This is the equivalent of building around 1,000 new schools at current prices.

Q1 On balance, do you think the UK should replace its nuclear weapons, or not? Base: all respondents Version 2 (957)

 %
Yes, should33
No, should not54
Don't know13

Q2 In your opinion which, if any, of these are appropriate ways for the UK to make a decision on whether or not to replace its nuclear weapons? Base: all respondents Versions 1 and 2 (1,973)

 %
A full national debate in which the government and organisations like Greenpeace & CND work together to give the public all the options available43
A national referendum42
The government giving Parliament & the public access to all the information it has about advantages & disadvantages of building a new nuclear weapon39
A prime-time televised debate on arguments for and against developing nuclear weapons, to include politicians and representatives from other organisations17
 
Other1
None of these5
Don't know5

VERSION 1

Q3-5 Would you approve or disapprove of the UK using nuclear weapons against a country we are at war with and that ... Base: all respondents Version 1 (1,016)

 ApproveDisapproveDon't know
 %%%
Does not have nuclear weapons9847
Has nuclear weapons but has never used them167211
Uses nuclear weapons against the UK533710

VERSION 2: WORDING DERIVED FROM OCTOBER 1955 GALLUP QUESTION *

Q3-5 Would you approve of using the nuclear bomb in these cases? Base: all respondents Version 2 (957)

 ApproveDisapproveDon't know
 %%%
Against an enemy that does not possess it themselves5879
Gallup October 1955117712
 
Against an enemy that does possess it but is not using it117712
Gallup October 1955226414
 
Against an enemy that has it and uses it against us553213
Gallup October 195576168

* The October 1955 Gallup survey question referred to the hydrogen bomb, and was worded as follows: "What do you think about the H-Bomb in a war? Would you approve of using it in these cases:"; the same three scenarios as cited above were then provided. The sample size was 1,000 British adults, and a similar face-to-face, in-home methodology was used.

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