from International Institutions and Global Governance Program

World Opinion on Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

August 24, 2009

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

More on:


Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Polls and Public Opinion

This page is part of Public Opinion on Global Issues. Download this chapter (PDF) or read more about U.S. opinion on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

This publication is now archived.

Concerns about Nuclear Proliferation

International polls find a high level of concern among world publics about the possibility of unfriendly countries becoming nuclear powers, and a widespread belief that preventing the spread of nuclear weapons should be an important foreign policy goal. Download full chapter (PDF).

Goal of Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

Large majorities in publics around the world, including in countries with nuclear arms, favor an international agreement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons that includes an intrusive international inspection regime. Download full chapter (PDF).

UN Use of Force to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation

Most countries polled internationally favor the UN Security Council having the right to authorize the use of military force to prevent a country from acquiring nuclear weapons. Download full chapter (PDF).

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

There is substantial support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in global public opinion, including in the United States. Download full chapter (PDF).

Multilateral Control of Nuclear Fuel Production

There is substantial international support for not allowing some countries to develop nuclear fuel out of concern that they will use it to develop nuclear weapons.  Publics worldwide would favor an international regime under the United Nations that would stop new countries from beginning production of nuclear fuel and instead supply them with the fuel they need for energy production. Most publics polled even favor giving the UN Security Council the right to authorize military force to prevent a country from developing nuclear fuel that could be used to develop nuclear weapons. Download full chapter (PDF).

Dealing With Iran’s Nuclear Program

International polls reveal a widespread global perception that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, rather than limiting itself to energy production, and there is substantial concern over this. While most publics want to put international pressure on Iran to stop it from producing nuclear fuel, publics to date have roundly rejected the option of military force , and respondents in most countries have also opposed economic sanctions, preferring  diplomacy instead. Publics in a majority of nations polled support the idea of allowing Iran to produce nuclear fuel if it accepts intrusive UN inspections. Asked which institution would best handle the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons, Europeans and Americans choose the United Nations by a large margin. Download full chapter (PDF).

More on:


Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Polls and Public Opinion


Top Stories on CFR

Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines

The race to find a vaccine for the new coronavirus is well underway. Governments and researchers are aiming to provide billions of people with immunity in eighteen months or less, which would be unprecedented.


As China’s power continues to grow, some fear that the considerable autonomy Hong Kong has enjoyed in recent decades could slip away.

South Korea

Tensions rocketed on June 16 when North Korea demolished a liaison office that had stood as a symbol of hope for improved communications.