Now Trending: North Korea

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by Genna Liu, Yumiko Kozu, and Koby Gordon
Respondents were asked to identify North Korea on a map of Asia. The dots represent the respondents' answers.

A recent survey conducted by Dartmouth students and Morning Consult found that North Korea is one of the most talked about news topic in the United States, topping even some entertainment news. Of those surveyed, 72% of respondents had heard a lot or some about North Korea in the news recently. In comparison, 56% of respondents said the same about the newly released Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, 47% for the NBA playoffs, and 23% for Kendrick Lamar’s new album, DAMN. Of all the topics in the survey — including the healthcare bill, Speaker Paul Ryan, and Russia — only United Airlines edged out North Korea at 78%.

Kim Jong-un was the most recognized Asian national leader of those on the survey. When shown a picture of the leader, 85% of adults correctly matched Kim’s name with his face. In contrast, 54% of respondents correctly matched Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 53% for Chinese President Xi Jinping, and 52% for former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Much remains elusive, however. Americans are not as knowledgeable when asked about North Korea’s geography, history, and policy. Only 29% of respondents correctly identified North Korea on a map of Asia, and only 52% selected Pyongyang as the capital of North Korea. When asked about the first president of North Korea, 29% of respondents correctly chose Kim Il-sung. Additionally, 42% of those who said that the United States should take no action in regards to a nuclear North Korea indicated that they chose so because they do not have enough information to support a specific action in the country. Respondents who could not identify North Korea on a map were more likely to support either not taking action or using nuclear force against North Korea.

In general, Americans are moderate in their views on North Korea. Although response options did not include positive engagements such as resumption of the six-party talks and the removal of THAAD, most respondents — 76%  —  favored moderate US responses to North Korea including no action, sanctions, and increased military presence.

The survey, conducted between May 6 and 7, 2017, was administered to a nationally representative sample of 1,843 adults in the United States, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Genna Liu is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a government and economics student at Dartmouth College. Yumiko Kozu is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an exchange student at Dartmouth College. Koby Gordon is a government student at Dartmouth College.