Americans Fret Over Cyberattacks, Not North Korea or ISIS

(CN) – Americans are far less concerned about two potential global threats that a majority of the country viewed as prominent existential risks just two years ago – North Korea and the Islamic State Group – but they are afraid of one thing: cyberattacks.

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center showed 53% of respondents said North Korea’s nuclear program posed a major threat to the well-being of the United States, down from 75% of respondents saying so in 2017.

In 2017, 68% of those polled characterized the group formerly known as ISIS as a major threat; in 2019, only 53% do.

Despite the decline in worry over North Korea’s potential to threaten the United States, a majority of the public remains skeptical over whether the country is serious about abandoning its nuclear program.

Overall, 58% say North Korean leadership is not serious about addressing global concerns over its nuclear weapons program, up from 49% a year ago.

The trend is pronounced among Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents, with 67% saying they are skeptical about North Korea’s commitments.

Republicans aren’t necessarily buying Kim Jong Un’s sales pitch either: 52% said they are skeptical compared to 40% who said they believed in North Korea’s desire to get rid of its nuclear weapons.

Partisanship continued to be a huge factor in how respondents view global threats. For instance, 84% of Democrats listed climate change as a major global threat to the well-being of the United States, compared to only 27% of Republicans – a difference of 57 percentage points. It was the largest partisan gulf among the global threats listed.

Members of the two parties also disagree on the specter of Russia. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats think Russia’s power and influence is a major threat. By comparison, only 35% of Republicans deem Russia a menace.

A deep partisan divide also surrounds the issue of Iran.

While there is mild consensus on Iran’s nuclear program posing a hazard to the security of the United States (57% overall, 50% among Democrats and 65% among Republicans), there is deep division about how to act against that threat.

Overall, 49% favored avoiding military conflict with Iran against the 40% who favored taking a firm stand against the Middle Eastern country.

But Republicans approved of the latter course with 68% saying the United States should take a firm stand, while only 25% said the U.S. should avoid military conflict. The percentages were inverse for Democrats, with 71% in favor of averting war and 23% percent in favor of a tough stance.

Both do agree in certain areas.

For example, both Democrats and Republicans rate cyberattacks from other countries as the single biggest threat to the well-being of the United States. Overall, 74% of the public rates cyberattacks as a hazard, including 72% of Republicans and 76% of Democrats.

Similarly, there is bipartisan consensus that China’s power and influence is a menace to U.S. peace and prosperity.

Overall, 54% of respondents expressed concern over China, with 58% of Republicans and 52% of Democrats labelling the country a major threat.

According to the latest poll, nearly a quarter of adults say China is an adversary, while 50% characterize the Asian country as a serious problem but not an adversary. Meanwhile, only 24% say they don’t view China as a problem, the lowest percentage since Pew first began to ask the question in 1997. As recently as last year, 34 percent of adults said they didn’t view China as a problem.

Regardless of the given issue, American’s remain focused inwardly as a majority of both parties said President Donald Trump should focus on domestic rather than international issues.

More than two-thirds of adults (69%) said Trump needs to focus on domestic issues, with only negligible differences in partisan views (74% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats).

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