This past month some colleagues and I completed a study on public opinion surrounding the possibility of the United States Government declaring a policy of No First Use (NFU) for nuclear weapons. Should America implement NFU, we would never use nuclear weapons against a state unless that state launched nuclear warheads against us.
In our study, we examined high schoolers who had very little prior knowledge on NFU. We asked subjects to rate their feeling about the declaration of this policy and how it would affect both their sense of security. We disseminated a Google form to subjects via text message and email and asked them to examine the statements “I am genuinely concerned about nuclear war in the foreseeable future” and “If the US Government adopted a No First Use Policy, I would feel significantly safer.” They rated both statements on a five-point scale which ranged from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Subjects were also given the option to explain their answer to the latter question.
Our 240+ responses yielded these findings: first, not only were more than half of students concerned about the prospect of nuclear war, but also, that if an NFU were implemented, most of them would feel safer. In fact, of the 82% of students who were opinionated about NFU, 71% said they would feel more secure under such a policy. Among the reasons cited for this generally positive outlook were that an NFU would diffuse global tensions and force America to look to options other than violence, such as diplomacy. Thus, we conclude that NFU should be considered not only for its potential safety benefits practically, but also for the benefits it will provide to youth mental health.