New poll shows majority of U.S. favors diplomatic approach with North Korea and China

WASHINGTON, DC (September 30, 2021) A new public opinion poll commissioned by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and conducted by Ipsos examined U.S. public attitudes toward peace and humanitarian issues with North Korea and China. The poll also explored U.S. sanctions policy. The poll revealed that the U.S. public favors the use of diplomatic tools even amid high tensions with China and stalled talks with North Korea.

A plurality of respondents (41%) agreed that the U.S. should end its longest war abroad with North Korea by signing a peace agreement, while only 24% of respondents did not agree and 35% didn’t know. The poll indicates that the majority of respondents (52%) agree that the U.S. should establish a diplomatic presence in North Korea such as a liaison office. Sixty-two percent of survey respondents agreed that the U.S. government should work with North Korea to reunite Korean Americans with their families in North Korea. A strong majority (70%) of the public agrees that the U.S. should work with North Korea to repatriate the remains of U.S. service members who were left in the country following the active fighting of the Korean War.

“Americans are tired of war and a militarized foreign policy. It’s clear the majority of the U.S. public understands the value of diplomacy and wants a new approach to North Korea and China,” said Daniel Jasper, the Asia Advocacy Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee. “It’s also very telling that public opinion is so overwhelmingly in support of resolving long standing humanitarian issues such as reuniting families and bringing home the remains of U.S. service members. Healing the wounds of war starts and ends at the interpersonal level.”

The survey also revealed that the majority of the U.S. public (56%) agrees that the U.S. government should allow privately-funded charities to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of North Korea.

“Nongovernmental organizations that engage with the DPRK, like AFSC, remain an important channel for providing lifesaving assistance as well as fostering mutual understanding between our two countries,” said Jennifer Deibert, DPRK Program Director for AFSC. “It’s no surprise to us that the U.S. public supports our work. The U.S. government should see these results as a mandate for unwinding the complex regulations that hinder NGOs like AFSC from delivering timely humanitarian support.”

The poll indicated that the U.S. public favors diplomatic tools with China as well. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of poll respondents agree that the U.S. should engage in dialogue processes with China to reduce tensions. More broadly, the majority (53%) agreed that the U.S. should lift sanctions if they interfere with humanitarian aid and COVID-19 relief efforts.

The poll was conducted with a sample of 1,004 U.S. adults who were surveyed between September 24-27, 2021.

“There is a lot of good news in this poll for anyone concerned about humanitarian work and diplomacy,” said Beth Hallowell, AFSC’s Director of Research and Analytics.


The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) promotes a world free of violence, inequality, and oppression. Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we nurture the seeds of change and the respect for human life to fundamentally transform our societies and institutions.