UK nuclear weapons: the UK public speaks

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As the UK Government is set to release its Trident Alternatives Review, the focus of attention on the UK’s nuclear weapons has never been greater, and yet at the same time, the adjustments to be brought about by the review, vis-à-vis Trident replacement, are predicted to be slight at best.

Furthermore, beyond work performed by a handful of non-governmental organisations, the UK public has had little opportunity to voice its opinion on the UK’s possession or potential use of its nuclear weapons; and certainly it has not had a chance to do so in official fora.  

At the end of 2012, UNA-UK commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct a survey of UK public perceptions of international security. 1,053 respondents were selected to be nationally representative of adults, and the resultant data were weighted to ensure a representative sample. A portion of the survey was given over to assessing attitudes towards the UK’s potential use of nuclear weapons; the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons; and the UK and nuclear disarmament. UNA-UK has extrapolated some initial findings from the data, and a new briefing shows that the UK public's view of Trident, in addition to its replacement, is far from clear cut. 

Key findings

  • 68% of UK public state that no countries should be allowed to keep nuclear weapons under international law
  • 47% of UK public believe nuclear weapons should never be used by UK
  • Only 8% see a nuclear attack by another country as the greatest threat to the UK’s national security
  • 3 in 4 adults suggest that the UK should either disarm immediately or over a period of time, while 15% believe that the UK should always maintain a nuclear weapons capability 

For more information on UNA-UK’s Towards Zero programme, or to learn more about the Towards Zero briefing paper series, contact James Kearney, UNA-UK Peace and Security Programmes Manager, at kearney@una.org.uk or on 020 7766 3446.

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