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Public Mobilization for a Nuclear-Free World

September 27, 2010

[Historian Lawrence Wittner, a professor at the State University of New York in Albany, was a featured speaker at IPPNW’s World Congress in Basel, Switzerland in August. He is the author of  Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford University Press) The following article, available in full by following the link below, was published on the website of Foreign Policy in Focus.]

One of the ironies of the current international situation is that, although some government leaders now talk of building a nuclear weapons-free world, there has been limited public mobilization around that goal — at least compared to the action-packed 1980s.

However, global public opinion is strikingly antinuclear. In December 2008, an opinion poll conducted of more than 19,000 respondents in 21 nations found that, in 20 countries, large majorities — ranging from 62 to 93 percent — favored an international agreement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. Even in Pakistan, the one holdout nation, 46 percent (a plurality) would support such an agreement. Among respondents in the nuclear powers, there was strong support for nuclear abolition. This included 62 percent of the respondents in India, 67 percent in Israel, 69 percent in Russia, 77 percent in the United States, 81 percent in Britain, 83 percent in China and 87 percent in France.

But public resistance to the bomb is not as strong as these poll figures seem to suggest.

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