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Unfaltering Alliance

Public Policy Poll: Support for NATO Membership Remains High

By Sala Levin ’10

NATO HQ

Photo courtesy of NATO

NATO member-country flags flap in the breeze outside the organization's Brussels headquarters. A new study from UMD researchers shows overwhelming support for NATO, a 70-year-old alliance that faced down the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Although President Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and suggested the United States might not honor its mutual-defense treaty obligations, support for U.S. membership in the 70-year-old alliance remains strong across the political spectrum, according to a new survey by the School of Public Policy’s Program for Public Consultation.

The study, conducted with the nonprofit Voice of the People, presented respondents with a range of arguments for and against NATO membership. They found that 83% of the roughly 2,400 people surveyed supported the U.S. remaining in NATO, including 77% of Republicans.

“The response was overwhelming,” said Steven Kull, senior research associate and director of the Program for Public Consultation. “I think it’s striking that it’s such a big majority, and that the arguments against it did really poorly.”

Respondents were presented with arguments for and against U.S. membership. Supportive arguments emphasized the ongoing threat from Russia and NATO’s role in maintaining strong bonds with European countries. Anti-NATO arguments focused on the improbability of Russia attacking Europe, the expense of the alliance for the U.S. and that ties to Europe are not dependent on a military alliance.

The results held across party lines, with 76% of Trump supporters in favor of remaining in the military alliance. Support varied little from deep red districts to firmly blue ones.

Age also made little difference. Even among millennials, “who you might think because they grew up after the Cold War was over that it might not be as salient for them to be concerned about the threat from Russia,” 77% supported the alliance, said Kull.

Even in the face of Trump’s attacks on the alliance that faced off against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Kull said, the results show “how robust the support is for the NATO alliance, such that it’s not easily dislodged.”

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