Close to half of Americans say they are very concerned that Russia would directly target the US with nuclear weapons, and an additional 3 in 10 are somewhat concerned about that, according to the new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Russian President Vladimir Putin placed his country’s nuclear forces on high alert shortly after the 24 February invasion.
Roughly nine in 10 Americans are at least somewhat concerned that Putin might use a nuclear weapon against Ukraine, including about 6 in 10 who are very concerned.
“He is out of control, and I don’t think he really has concern for much of anything but what he wants,” said Robin Thompson, a retired researcher from Amherst, Massachusetts. “And he has nuclear weapons.”
Seventy-one percent of Americans say the invasion has increased the possibility of nuclear weapons being used anywhere in the world.
The poll was conducted before North Korea test-fired its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday but also shows 51% of Americans saying they are very concerned about the threat to the US posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. An additional 29% expressed moderate concern.
In the recent AP-NORC poll, close to half of Americans say they are “extremely” or “very” concerned that the US might be drawn into a war with Russia. Roughly four in 10 Americans said they are “somewhat” concerned.
The findings reflect not just anxiety about what seems like a proxy war with Russia, even if the US isn’t directly involved in the conflict, but also the unprecedented saturation coverage of the war through traditional news outlets and social media.
“We are seeing almost moment by moment what’s happening to these poor people,” said Linda Woodwarda retired phone company technician from Hot Springs Village, Arkansas.
The concern about nuclear war cuts across party lines and even resonates with some young adults who were born after the cold war.