Poll: Majority of Americans believe North Korea is a critical nuclear threat

A Gallup poll conducted just before North Korea conducted its third major nuclear test showed that the development of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang is believed to be a major threat to the United States.

Eighty-three percent of respondents called the DPRK's nuclear program a critical threat to the vital interests of the United States in the next decade, tying it in importance with the nuclear threat posed by Iran, according to Gallup.com.

The poll was conducted from February 7-10, just before North Korea's latest underground nuclear test, meaning most Americans saw North Korea as a major threat before the arrival of news that Pyongyang continues to move its nuclear ambitions forward in defiance of international efforts to prevent them. Americans' basic opinions about North Korea rank among some of the most negative that Gallup measures.

Although Iran has appeared in news headlines more frequently as of late, many Americans continue to frequently mention the DPRK as the United States' main enemy. Iran has, however, come close in many polls.

The recent Gallup poll is the first to specifically ask about North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions. A 2004 poll ranked the spread of weapons of mass destruction as the second most critical threat to the United States after international terrorism. Gallup said that the new DPRK test will likely reinforce what Americans already believe, rather than change many opinions.