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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Split on Trump Handling North Korea

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Plurality say “fire and fury” comments make things worse

West Long Branch, NJ – Americans are divided when it comes to their confidence in Donald Trump’s ability to deal with the threat posed by North Korea. The Monmouth University Poll finds a plurality who say that the president’s “fire and fury” statement is making things worse. And most expect that Trump’s probable response if North Korea actually went ahead with a missile test near Guam is likely to escalate the situation.

The public is split in their faith in Pres. Trump’s ability to deal with the North Korea situation. About 4-in-10 (42%) say they feel confident and 38% do not feel confident while another 20% are unsure. When those who are unsure are asked which way they lean, the proportion of Americans who feel confident goes up 6 points to 48% while the number who do not feel confident increases 11 points to 49%. Overall, 84% of Republicans either feel confident or lean toward feeling confident, 51% of independents say the same, and just 14% of Democrats agree with that sentiment.

Most Americans (81%) have heard about Trump’s response that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury” if they threaten the United States. Nearly half (47%) say that statements like this are making the situation worse, just 20% say they make the situation better, and 28% say they have no impact on how the situation will ultimately turn out. Among Republicans, just 18% say Trump’s pronouncements make things worse while 36% say they improve the situation. Among independents, 42% say the president’s words are making the situation worse and 21% say they are making the situation better. Most Democrats (78%) say Trump’s statements are having a negative effect and just 4% say they are improving the situation.

“There’s a real question in the public’s mind about whether Trump in the Situation Room behaves differently than Trump in public,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

More than half the public say they are worried – 28% a great deal and 32% some – that North Korea will launch a nuclear missile against the U.S. or one of its territories. Just under 4-in-10 say they do not worry about this much (17%) or at all (21%). Nearly 3-in-4 Democrats (74%) are joined by 56% of Republicans and 53% of independents in expressing at least some concern that this type of attack will happen.

Most Americans (70%) believe that Trump will react in a way that escalates the situation if North Korea fires non-nuclear test missiles near Guam. Just 15% think that the president will react in a way that calms the situation.

“While public confidence in the president’s ability to handle North Korea is evenly split, most are fairly certain that Trump will not look for a diplomatic solution if that nation does decide to test its missiles near Guam,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 10 to 14, 2017 with 805 adults in the United States.  The results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.



(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)


[Q1-10 previously released.]


  1. Have you heard about North Korea’s recent nuclear missile testing program, or have you not heard about this?
Yes, have heard 88%
No, have not heard 12%
(n) (805)


  1. How much do you worry about the possibility that North Korea will attack the United States or one of its territories with a nuclear missile – a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?


Great deal 28%
Some 32%
Not much 17%
Not at all 21%
(VOL) Don’t know 1%
(n) (805)


  1. Are you confident or not confident in President Trump’s ability to deal with the North Korea situation, or are you not sure? [If NOT SURE: Do you lean more toward feeling confident or more toward feeling not confident?]


Confident 42%
Not sure, lean confident 6%
Not sure 3%
Not sure, lean not confident 11%
Not confident 38%
(n) (805)
  1. Have you heard about President Trump’s recent statement that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury” if they threaten the U.S., or have you not heard this?


Yes, have heard 81%
No, have not heard 19%
(n) (805)


  1. Do you think Trump’s public statements like this about North Korea are making the situation better, making the situation worse, or have no real impact on how the situation will turn out?


Better 20%
Worse 47%
No real impact 28%
(VOL) Don’t know 6%
(n) (805)


  1. If North Korea fires non-nuclear test missiles near the U.S. territory of Guam, do you think Trump is more likely to react in a way that calms the situation or more likely to act in a way that escalates the situation?


Calms the situation 15%
Escalates the situation 70%
(VOL) Neither, other 6%
(VOL) Don’t know 10%
(n) (805)


[Q17-23 held for future release.]



The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from August 10 to 14, 2017 with a national random sample of 805 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 401 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 404 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and SSI (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design).  Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.




27% Republican
42% Independent
32% Democrat
48% Male
52% Female
31% 18-34
34% 35-54
35% 55+
65% White
12% Black
15% Hispanic

  7% Asian/Other



Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.


Download this Poll Report with all tables

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- Monmouth University Polling Institute