November 18, 2009

Europeans and Americans Share Concerns About Iran’s Nuclear Program

Russians Less Worried

by Erin Carriere-Kretschmer, Senior Researcher, Pew Global Attitudes Project

As international pressure mounts on Iran to halt its nuclear program, Americans and Europeans generally express serious concerns about the potential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran. However, these fears are somewhat muted in Russia — a nation that will be crucial to any effort to impose new sanctions on Iran.

A 14-nation survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, conducted Aug. 27 through Sept. 24, finds worries about Iran developing nuclear weapons most common among Americans: 82% say that this would be a major threat to the well-being of the U.S. Similarly, concerns are widespread in Western Europe — large majorities in Spain (81%), Germany (79%), Italy (78%) and France (74%) view Iran’s emergent nuclear capabilities as a major threat.

This view is less common among Eastern Europeans. Still, 69% of Czechs view Iran’s potential nuclear capabilities as a threat, as do more than six-in-ten in Poland (65%), Bulgaria (63%) and Lithuania (62%). Roughly half in Slovakia (52%) and Hungary (46%) express worry about Iran developing a nuclear capacity.

By contrast, there is less concern about this issue in Russia, which, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has veto power over any UN effort to impose sanctions on Iran. Just over four-in-ten Russians (41%) say Iran’s potential nuclear status poses a major threat to their country, while 48% deem it only a minor threat or not a threat at all. Ukrainians are even less worried — only 27% say Iran’s emergent nuclear status is a major threat to their country, while nearly half (48%) say it is a minor danger or no danger at all. Many in Ukraine say they don’t know (26%).

More Concern About a Nuclear Iran than Extremists Taking Over Afghanistan or Pakistan

In each of the nations surveyed, more people consider a nuclear armed Iran a major threat than say this about two other potential dangers: the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan and extremists taking control of Pakistan.

Majorities in 11 of the 14 countries say that a nuclear Iran poses a major threat to their own country; across the 14 nations, the median percentage rating a nuclear Iran a major threat is 66%.

Majorities in only six of the countries surveyed consider extremists taking over Afghanistan or Pakistan to be a major danger to their country. The median percentage rating extremists taking over Afghanistan a major threat is 48%. Similarly, the median percentage saying extremists taking over Pakistan is 44%.

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